Aerial spray mission spins up against mosquitoes in east Texas

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing arrived here, Sept. 8, 2017, to start aerial spray mosquito control application in areas of eastern Texas to assist Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. The 910th operates the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) only large area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control pest insect populations, eliminate undesired, invasive vegetation and disperse oil spills in large bodies of water.

“We have a hell of a team here performing this important mission,” said Lt. Col. Bart Elsea, mission commander for the mosquito control aerial spray mission working from a hangar close to the airfield here.

Elsea said more than 90 Reserve Citizen Airmen, based at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, are working from a base of operations at the Kelly Field Annex. The personnel included members of the 910th’s Aerial Spray Flight, Aerial Spray Maintenance Flight, Operations Support Squadron, Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Maintenance Squadron, Force Support Squadron, Logistics Readiness Squadron and the Wing Public Affairs Office. 

He added the 502nd Operations Support Squadron, based at the Kelly Field Annex, and the 433rd Maintenance Group, based at Lackland Air Force Base, are also providing invaluable support to the Air Force Reserve Command’s aerial spray special mission.

Lt. Col. Mark Breidenbaugh, the Chief Entomologist of the 910th’s 757th Airlift Squadron and Aerial Spray Flight said there were several reasons why federal and state authorities called upon the 910th to assist in recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“Due to large amounts of standing, potentially polluted water, the numbers of pest insects have increased significantly,” Breidenbaugh said. “This situation is impacting first responders and recovery workers as clean-up and repair efforts continue.”

The 910th’s chief entomologist added the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) have requested the support of the 910th to treat millions of affected acres. Authorities requested DoD support because the scope of the disaster is beyond the capacity of available civilian mosquito control resources to respond in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. 

According to the 910th’s daily situation reports, the wing has treated more than 1.4 million acres in eastern Texas  since the 910th started mosquito control aerial spray operations on Sept. 9, 2017.

Breidenbaugh said the 910th conducts aerial spray missions at dusk and nighttime hours using night vision technology when pest insects are most active. 

“The aircrews performing these flights are highly trained to successfully complete the mosquito control aerial spray operations,” Elsea said. “Safety is paramount to us.”

Breidenbuagh said the 910th Airlift Wing Aerial Spray missions use only Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered materials. 

“Aerial Spray is a highly controlled application of the required material using a specially designed Modular Aerial Spray System (MASS),” he said. “We apply no more than one ounce per acre; that’s less than one shot glass of material for an area the size of a football field.” 

Breidenbaugh added that for this mosquito control mission, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) selected a material called naled. 

According to the EPA, this material is effective in amounts not large enough to cause any concern for the health of humans, including children and pregnant women, or pets.

The 910th’s aerial spray capability was used for pest insect control during disaster recovery efforts by treating more than 2.8 million acres in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 as well as after Hurricane Gustav in 2008. The 910th’s aerial spray oil dispersant capability was used in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Hurricane Harvey aerial spray operations are expected to significantly surpass previous missions in scope of areas treated by the Air Force Reserve.

“We are here to assist in recovery efforts and help the residents of east Texas,” said Elsea. “We will be here as long as FEMA and Texas DSHS need our special mission capability.”