Thursday, March 7, 2019

Stationed in Korea, soldiers ask for permission to breathe

US soldiers wish for masks as air pollution smothers South Korea

Published: March 7, 2019

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — With much of South Korea smothered in record levels of fine dust, the streets are full of people wearing masks as protection from the punishing air pollution.
Pedestrians wear masks while walking at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Wednesday, March 6, 2019. MATT KEELER/STARS AND STRIPES

Most American soldiers don’t have that option — at least when they’re in uniform. The Air Force permits masks when pollution hits a certain level.

Army regulations bar soldiers from wearing the masks, which cover noses and mouths, unless they have a certified medical condition that merits an exception.

That has caused concern among many soldiers and their loved ones as much of South Korea has endured several days of dense pollution that irritates eyes and makes breathing difficult.

“I feel like my husband should be able to wear a mask. I really don’t like that,” Army wife Alexandra Jackson said as she waited for dinner at the Yongsan Garrison food court.

She and her 10-year-old stepson, King Jackson, both wore masks around their necks. She said her husband also wears one when he’s off-duty.
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