JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas back in August, it dumped plenty of rain water causing floodwaters and millions of dollars in damage and devastation.
The hurricane left quite a bit of standing, polluted water where the number of pest insects that can transmit diseases poses a potential health risk to the residents of eastern Texas for serious disease. Those diseases include malaria, West Nile virus, Zika and various types of encephalitis.
The Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing, a special team based out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, was recently deployed to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Kelly Field, Texas to conduct nightly aerial spray missions in eastern Texas with the help of the 502nd Operations Support Squadron.
“When we arrived here, there was an entire entourage here to meet us,” said Lt. Col. Bart Elsea, 910th AW deployed detachment commander. The 502nd OSS rolled out the red carpet for his team to ensure they had everything they needed for the assignment. “It’s made a difficult situation a heck of a lot easier.”
More than 90 Reserve Citizen Airmen, equipment, materials and three specially modified Air Force Reserve C-130 Hercules aircraft made the trip to Texas after receiving the call from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Texas Department of State Health.
The 502nd OSS was ready to provide the support needed.
“When a mission like this comes around, you already know what these guys are expecting, what they would need and kind of get an idea of what’s happening,” said Ray Perez, 502nd OSS chief contracting officer’s representative. “It’s very gratifying to be able to help a team like this.”
502nd OSS director of operations, Tom Robinson, wants to make sure their guests have nothing to worry about but the task at hand.
“I know they got a building. I know they got a space to store their product,” Robinson said. “If they know all the stuff is taken care of and we do that, (the 910th AW) can focus on conducting the missions they’re supposed to be focusing on.”
The 910th AW Aerial Spray missions use only Environmental Protection Agency registered materials. Aerial Spray is a highly controlled application of the required material using a specially designed Modular Aerial Spray System.
A small amount of insecticide, approximately one to two tablespoons per acre, is dispersed by the aircraft, which is equipped with special nozzles that kill adult mosquitos on contact. The overall goal of this particular mission is to spray six million acres of land with the three aircrafts being used.
These MASS missions are normally conducted at dusk and nighttime hours using night vision technology when pest insects are most active. The 910th AW is using a material called naled, which is EPA approved.
The 910th AW’s aerial spray capability has been used in several disasters. They include more than 2.8 million acres in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, as well as Hurricane Gustav in 2008.
The aerial spraying is not harmful to people, pets or livestock, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website. The insecticide will not harm lakes or rivers used for drinking water or recreation because it breaks down quickly.
This aerial spraying mission is expected to continue through the month of September, but may be extended if needed.
While the 910th AW temporarily calls the 502nd OSS, Elsea says his team has never had the facilities or the cooperation to set up their operation like they have with the 502nd OSS.
“It’s been second to none,” Elsea adds.
The 910th AW is the home of the Department of Defense’s only large area, fixed wing Aerial Spray Flight and Aerial Spray Maintenance Flight.