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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2022

Students learn how to manage, prevent pests at MEDCoE course

By Jose Rodriguez U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

Managing pests is important to maintaining the health and wellness of personnel and property on military installations. The Department of Defense Pesticide Applicator Certification Course trains applicators to manage pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks.

Taught at the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, the three-week course is open to DOD and state organizations that might utilize DOD property for training or stationing, including the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Department of Veterans Affairs, and National Guard (Army and Air). After successfully completing the course, graduates are certified to apply and/or supervise the application of pesticides in the categories in which they are trained/credentialed.

In the first week of the Pesticide Applicator Certification Course, during Phase l, all students must pass the core competency exam. The phase focuses on general concepts of integrated pest management, surveillance, safe handling of pesticides, pest identification, pest status, occupational health of the applicators, and environmental impact awareness.

After successfully completing the Phase I exam, students then proceed to the second phase of the course where they learn about four credentialling categories: forestry pests, ornamental and turf pests, water pests, and rights-of-way pests. The final week of the course covers structural pests and public health.

Maj. Nicholas S. Tucker, Chief, Medical Zoology, Division of Preventive Health Sciences, MEDCoE, oversees the Pesticide Applicator Certification Course.

“Like the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Tucker said. “Pests come in many forms; some can damage property and others vector pathogens that can harm servicemembers, civilians, and families.” Tucker believes surveillance is critical to the control of injurious pests. “DOD pesticide applicators are trained to identify the signs of pests to prevent costly repairs or situations that could affect public health, thus saving the DOD money.”

Although the training is titled Pesticide Applicator Certification Course, the Army is conscious of the environmental impact of pesticide use for pest control. The basic tenets of integrated pest management, or IPM, support using non-chemical treatment methods to control or prevent pests.

IPM is the use of all tools, tactics, and techniques to prevent pests from affecting DOD people, property, or equipment, and to remediate any pest problems. IPM allows pesticide usage as a last resort. The Pesticide Applicator Certification Course ensures that when pesticides are applied, they are done so properly to reduce environmental impact.

Guest instructor Cpt. Paul Lenhart, a 72B entomologist assigned to the Public Health Command-Central, spoke on the emphasis of prevention.

“This class is not just how to mix pesticides,” Lenhart said. “The students need to know how to identify pests, know the life cycle to find the best solution to managing pests, and to do it safely with the regulatory requirements.”

He said the students learn the means and methods to protect personnel, structures, and the environment.

“If it’s a structural pest, like termites and ants, or medical pests, like ticks and mosquitos, it is always easier and more cost-effective to prevent pests than treat them on the back end.”

Ensuring that pests are properly controlled on installations is the job of both military personnel and civilians. Environmental health technician Kevin Williams attended the course to obtain his certification. Williams works at the Kenner Army Health Clinic at Fort Lee, Virginia, and needed the certification for his position at the clinic.

“The course is very enlightening,” Williams said. “I come from a food service background from the Marine Corps. The things I learned in this course will help me to identify pests, understand them, and help more at the child development centers and dining facilities, teaching people the different pest types and concentrating on prevention.”

To learn more about the DOD Pesticide Applicator Certification Course and information on enrolling, visit https://medcoe.army.mil/pest-certification.