New masks to protect service members' children from biological, chemical threats

The children of U.S. service members and their families are now being provided with a protection system for use in the event of a biological or chemical attack.

“It’s just a [matter of] preparation,” Army Capt. Allan Garcia, the 2nd Infantry Division’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear operations officer, told Stars and Stripes. “You just never know what the capability … is of [North Korea].”

Soldiers with children living in South Korea have been required to pick up the new child-friendly protective masks, which has been described as looking like a space suit and is suitable for children under eight years of age.

The mask replaces an older mask that was akin to placing a plastic bag over the child's head. The new mask gives the child more room inside as well as a increased field of vision and a built-in straw for drinking.

“I mean, it’s a weird concept to think about your kids having to wear a [protective] mask, but at the same time you have to look at the bright side — you can tell them they’re astronauts … for that period," Spc. Ione Barrera told Stars and Stripes. "Try to flip it around and not make it scary for them.”

The masks are important, as experts believe that, in the event of hostilities resuming on the peninsula, a biological or chemical attack from North Korea is a very real threat.

Early this year, it was reported by the AP that North Korea was believed to have chemical capabilities that would allow it to unleash such weapons in the early stages of a land war.

An investigative report by Popular Mechanics in 2007 said that sources believe North Kora has one of the most extensive biochemical warfare programs in the world.