Bioenvironmental, EM flights work together to detect, identify, analyze hazards

Base Info
Senior Airman Sean McKeel, right, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron readiness and emergency management journeyman, retrieves buffer solution from Staff Sgt. Mark Olsen, 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician, while checking a dry filter unit during Operational Readiness Exercise Beverly Midnight 13-03 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 9, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristina Overton)
Senior Airman Sean McKeel, right, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron readiness and emergency management journeyman, retrieves buffer solution from Staff Sgt. Mark Olsen, 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician, while checking a dry filter unit during Operational Readiness Exercise Beverly Midnight 13-03 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 9, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristina Overton)

Bioenvironmental, EM flights work together to detect, identify, analyze hazards

by: Senior Airman Kristina Overton, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office | .
Osan Air Base | .
published: August 10, 2013

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- One of the primary objectives during operational readiness exercises is testing the bases ability to utilize their chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training. While the majority Airmen respond by donning their Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear, some have the responsibility of going right to the source, and work to detect, identify and analyze potential threats.

To better respond to the base, the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management flight and the 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental flight integrated their teams.

For the first time, the two flights are working side-by-side to test their new dry filter unit (DFU) concept, ultimately, improving their bio-detection capabilities for Team Osan.

"The Air Force discontinued the use of the automated bio-detection system that we had used before," said Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Capps, 51st CES EM readiness flight chief. "The newer device uses a manual biological collection mechanism where we have to physically go around and pull samples. That requires much more manpower than the system that we had."

The newer system acts as a mass vacuum air collector, and provides the capability to recognize if biological agents were used in an area in the last 12 hours. If the new system detects biological agents, the data gives medical commanders the opportunity to prescribe medical treatment, depending on the agent, before people become symptomatic.

"The main difference with this exercise versus previous ones is that before, EM was doing more toward detecting and identifying the chemical agent, and we were doing more of the analyzing portion of it and health risk assessment," said Major Jung Lee, 51st AMDS bioenvironmental engineer flight commander. "We have two distinct jobs, but this exercise, we are actually working together to do all of these tasks [detect, identify, analyze] at the same time with the same team."

With the increasing need for manpower to extract filter samples per shift, it was a logical fit for EM to merge with bioenvironmental, who share many common capabilities for bio-detection. Together, the team is working to provide a quicker response during chemical attacks so that in the future, they will be able to conduct testing to get zones cleared from MOPP 4 to MOPP 2 more quickly.

"We expect flaws during this exercise, but that is the only way we can learn and improve our team cohesiveness as we continue in the future," Lee said. "We are really excited about working together and are looking forward to seeing what comes out of it."

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