Expeditionary bioenvironmental technicians safeguard 386th AEW
By Staff Sgt. Arielle Vasquez, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Deployments take U.S. service members to all corners of the globe, which can present a number of health risks, especially in new environments.
This is where the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering flight steps in to combat and reduce these hazards. In the same way the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects employees at work, the technicians monitor and ensure a safe working environment for service members.
“Our mission is to bolster operational effectiveness and do our part in keeping the 386th AEW members healthy said Staff Sgt. Charles Rideout, 386th EMDG bioenvironmental engineering technician. “Our flight is responsible for preventative medicine as well as emergency management.”
The four-person team provides numerous services across the installation including water testing, air sampling, work site health assessments and heat index calculations. Through the compilation and utilization of this information, the flight is able to prevent illnesses and injuries before they occur.
A major way the flight keeps members and coalition partners fit to fight is by ensuring the safety of water on the installation.
“We conduct water sampling tests weekly,” said Staff Sgt. Paige Moloto, 386th EMDG bioenvironmental engineering technician. “Typically, we are responsible for over 40 samples a week, from bottled water, municipal systems and storage tanks.”
While the bioenvironmental technicians are experts in preventative health, avoiding hazards are not always possible.
“In the event of a release of chemical, biological or radioactive warfare agents, we work in partnership with emergency management, security forces and the fire department, to identify the threat and determine effective treatment methods,” Moloto explained.
Data the flight gathers is also necessary in aiding medical providers to treat patients. Bioenvironmental technicians provide concrete information on the environment, hazards and chemicals that help guide the care of patients that may have been exposed, ensuring providers continue to informed treatment decisions years after the service member's exposure.
While being in an expeditionary environment comes with unique challenges, the technicians have expressed their appreciation for what they do every day.
“It is a great feeling to know how much of an impact and responsibility we have on this installation by keeping people healthy and fit,” Rideout said. “Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work, but what we do is absolutely critical to the mission.”
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