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The Officer/July2000
Director, Air Force Affairs, ROA

Col. Claire J. Gilstad, USAFR (Ret.)

Airmen, Soldiers Learn Aerial Pesticide Spraying Techniques

Fifteen service members from military installations in Germany and England were at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, 8-12 May, learning how to use chemicals to destroy the enemy. But the enemy was not human; it was insects with their deadly diseases that can take down a military fighting force.

U.S. military entomologists, ecological control specialists and preventative medicine personnel attended the Aerial Pesticide Applications Course. The seven airmen and eight soldiers learned how to plan, execute and oversee the entire process of applying pesticides by air, said Capt. Mark Pomerinke, command entomologist in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s civil engineer directorate at Ramstein.

The training included working with weather people and C-130 air-crews from Air Force Reserve Command’s 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio. The 910th AW is the only unit in the Air Force with the ability to perform this type of mission, Capt. Pomerinke said.

Working during classroom lectures, the students learned to build what Capt. Pomerinke calls spray maps, which contain the coordinates that lay out a boundary for the area that a C-130 must spray. They calculated the amount of pesticide needed to cover a specified area. The mix is placed inside a spray unit aboard a C-130, which is modified with spray nozzles on the underside of the wings and out the rear.

"We use the ground weather stations and GPS )global position system) to coordinate the operation And, we use ground-to-air radio to tell the aircrew what the weather conditions are like on the ground," said Tech. Sgt. Dave Berdis, NCO in charge of environmental management for the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.

Technical Sergeant Berdis, who is an entomologist by trade, said the aircrews already know weather and wind conditions in the air. By putting all the information together, the team can calculate pesticide coverage and know exactly when to spray to hit the area.

Wind, temperature and humidity are factors to consider. If it is too windy or hot the mission is scrubbed because the pesticide may evaporate or miss its target, Captain Pomerinke said.

"We often operate in environments where troops face diseases like malaria and encephalitis," he said. "The course is just one more tool we can use to make sure our troops stay healthy in order to complete their mission.."

Technical Sergeant Berdis, who spent time spraying for mosquitoes in Albania during Operation Shining Hope, agreed.

"Anyone who was down there has an appreciation for why entomology and aerial spraying is important," he said. "The mosquitoes were so thick you could eat them. Without these controls, disease can spread and…weaken troop strength."

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