Bio flight aims to protect Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarrod Grammel
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Gas masks fit tests aren't the only thing the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight of the 23d Aerospace Medicine Squadron does to accomplish their mission.

Whether it's harmful chemicals or the roar of A-10C Thunderbolt II engines, the role of the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight is to ensure the short and long-term safety of Airmen and the environment.

"We are like [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and the [Environmental Protection Agency] for the Air Force as well as hazmat trained responders," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Amanda Johnson, 23d AMDS industrial ventilation program manager. "We make sure the mission doesn't have a negative impact on the human weapon system or the environment.

"Basically, we provide health-risk assessments to all of the industrial shops on base," she added. "We assess the hazards and help make recommendations to mitigate any overexposures that they could have. We also do environmental quality (assurance) to ensure the mission we do here doesn't have an adverse effect on the environment."

During workplace visits, bioenvironmental Airmen look for specific things, such as proper ventilation where needed and that Airmen are wearing proper personal protective equipment. The inspections are driven by Air Force, Department of Defense and federal regulations. For one Airman, this is one of her favorite parts of the job.

"One of my favorite aspects of the job is that we get to interact with other shops to help protect and keep everybody safe," said Staff Sgt. Krisiti Gillespie, 23d AMDS industrial hygiene team leader. "We are protectors of the base. ... Our day-to-day activities, like water testing, can affect the entire base."

To accomplish their mission of keeping people safe, the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight works with Public Health to conduct health-risks assessments. The assessments are typically conducted for units that use potentially dangerous chemicals, such as the chemicals used in corrosion control.

"We crosstalk with bio to make sure the workers are protected, make sure we get an accurate assessment of risks in certain workplaces, and try to make sure everybody is seen and gets the right type of exams based on their exposures," said Kevin Berkel, 23d AMDS public health technician. " ... It's a team effort. When you boil it all down, we work to protect the patient."

Gillespie gave an example of one time they helped protect Airmen. She said the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight worked with the 23d Wing Safety Office and Air Combat Command to give the corrosion control facility a risk-assessment code and funds to make it safer.

"We worked to get them the new, updated paint barn so they are more protected," she said. "That way, their work doesn't adversely affect their health or the health of their families and any children down the line."

However, if Airmen are exposed to harmful chemical due to their occupation, it's the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight's job to make sure it's properly documented.

"I think the biggest take home for the other [Air Force Specialty Codes] that don't know what bio does is that we help ensure all their exposures in the Air Force are documented for later down the road if compensation is needed," said Johnson.

In addition to occupational health, the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight also plays an important role in operational readiness exercises by assessing contamination and advising the commander for mission oriented protective posture levels.

With the goal of preventative medicine and occupational health, the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight contributes to the 23d Medical Group mission to, "Optimize the Moody human weapon system for personnel recovery, precision attack and agile combat support functions, while promoting the health and wellness of our entire military family."