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Helping keep Kadena safe

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
There's an old adage that says 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,' and here at Kadena the 18th Aerospace Medical Squadron, Bioenvironmental Engineering flight is all about prevention. 

The members of the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight handle a number of jobs that include Occupational Health and Safety, environmental protection and dealing with the various hazards that members of Team Kadena deal with at work. 

"The clinic looks at taking care of patients on a daily basis," said Tech. Sgt. Joan Long, 18th BEF technician. "We're the ones who go out there and prevent people from having to go to the clinic." 

"We go to buildings on base to ensure there aren't any hazards present," said Capt. Anne Dixon, 18th BEF occupational health element chief. "We do air samples within the building, to ensure there isn't any significant threat present. If there is, we ensure those working there have the proper personal protective equipment or find ways to remove the hazard." 

One of the larger tasks that the 18th BEF deals with is taking care of the water systems around Okinawa, which equates to roughly 55,000 consumers. 

"We're responsible for 12 water systems on island," said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Wells, 18th BEF technician. "That includes all the military family housing on the Marine Corps bases and Okuma as well as here at Kadena." 

In order to ensure the water is safe for such a large area, the 18th BEF runs bacteriological samplings at each location on a monthly basis, as well as a chemical analysis of the water. 

"We make sure all the water systems are compliant and write up reports on that," said Sergeant Wells. "We also do a consumer confidence reports each summer so that everyone will know what they are drinking." 

Along with the various peace-time missions the 18th BEF carries out, they have an important wartime mission that greatly impacts the capabilities here at Kadena.
The BEF works alongside the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness Flight to make recommendations to the wing commander for the appropriate MOPP levels. 

"We're part of the NBC cell within the Emergency Operations Center," said Staff Sgt. Crystal Cole, 18th BEF technician. "Our teams go out with CE Readiness into hazardous areas to determine the contamination level and quantity at that location." 

One tool that members of the 18th BEF use to test the quantity of chemical agents at a location is called the Hazardous Air Pollutants on Site. The HAPSITE is a large device carried like a backpack to specific locations to test for chemical contaminates. 

"We have specialized equipment that can detect down to a level that standard equipment can't," said Tech. Sgt. Gerald Brasswell, 18th BEF. 

Similar to how the maintainers keep the mission going by keeping the planes in the air, the 18th BEF keeps the mission going by keeping the war fighters healthy. 

"Our guys are focused and know exactly how they affect the overall wing mission," said Maj. Christopher Bishop, 18th BEF commander. "They're motivated and eager to do it. I couldn't ask for a better crew than I have.