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Behind bioenvironmental suits

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Giant orange suits march rhythmically with oxygen tanks and clipboards in hand while waving chemical detection equipment over a spill as they arrive on-scene. At the same time, the water murmurs as it falls into a small test tube held by an Airman wearing blue gloves looking for possible contaminants and logging the information hourly. Walking by him is another Airman returning from testing the air for toxic gases, working to detect any threats before they affect base members.

While this may sound surreal for some, it is the daily reality of 20th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineers, at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, as they are the silent medics working behind the scenes.

“We are the preventative medics on base, preventing Airmen from becoming patients and protecting them from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear contamination and illnesses,” said Airman 1st Class Brieanna Garcia, 20th Medical Group bioenvironmental technician. “With the data we find, we provide health risk assessments to support health services and aid the commander with guidelines for each shop to keep safe.”

Each Airman has their own section they are charged with. Some have to check the water daily for contaminants and the power of hydration (pH) levels to catch any unfortunate events before people drink the water. Others monitor the temperature and subsequently inform the command post whether the temperature is listed as a green, yellow, red, or black flag. The team puts their heads together to solve any issues they may find and determine whether they will affect the base. They are trained, on-call first responders for various unexpected threats.

Airman 1st Class Jacob Mlodozeniec, 20th MDG bioenvironmental technician said, the team works together cohesively to combat oil spills, extreme health hazards and any water contaminants, among other tasks.

“I feel like we make such a large impact on base and our services are being called out every single day,” said Garcia. “I take pride in ensuring people feel safe when they see us, either in or out of our orange HAZMAT suits.”