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910th spearheads spray course in Florida

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“Let me set the mood a little,” said Lt. Col. Jen Remmers, an entomologist assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing. “Imagine a mosquito sucking your blood and defecating on you at the same time. What do you want to do?”

“We want to kill it.”

“And that's what we’re here for,” explained Remmers.

The 910th AW, based at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, operates the Department of Defense’s only large-area fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control disease-carrying insects and pest insects. Arguably, the wing is the most lethal in the Air Force, capable of eliminating incalculable numbers of pest insects. The unit has five entomologists assigned to ensure the mission is conducted with maximum lethality to pest insects and minimal impact to allied insects and the environment.

Every three years the 910th Airlift Wing holds the DoD Aerial Spray Certification Course in tandem with the Florida Mosquito Control Association’s annual fly-in at the Lee County Mosquito Control District near Fort Myers, Florida. The 2019 course was conducted January 7-10.

“This is the premier mosquito control district in the United States and probably the most funded,” said Lt. Col. Karl Haagsma, the class’s leading facilitator and an entomologist assigned to the 910th AW. “The pest management field is changing all the time, so we need to stay on top of new technology and information. In some cases they see what we do and adapt, and in other cases we see what they do and we adapt. The relationship probably goes back into the late seventies.”

The FMCA’s mission is to promote effective and environmentally safe control of disease-transmitting mosquitoes and other pest insects. Members accomplish this through technical, medical, scientific, environmental and educational resources.

The long-standing partnership with the FMCA fly-in brings new technology testing data, new experiment data and experienced aerial spray personnel to one place for the DoD students to learn from.

On the flip-side, the 910th AW brings the FMCA fly-in the military’s rules on aerial spray operations, DoD safety briefings, updated statistics from the unit’s Modular Aerial Spray System and a C-130 aerial spray demonstration. The 910th AW’s aerial spray birds are one of the largest aircraft used for aerial spraying.

“Technology is always changing, and we’re in an age of public information being so readily available,” said Mark Latham, FMCA’s chair of aerial spray training and director of Manatee County Mosquito Control District. “The Air Force wants to keep up like we do, so them coming down and sharing what they’ve learned with us and what we’ve learned with them is a good thing. We all need to make sure we do everything as professionally as possible and put out that right message and that right image of what we’re doing.”

Mosquitos are still responsible for thousands of deaths around the world a year. They can carry and spread diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, Zika, dengue, etc. And a big reason for the limited cases of these diseases in the United States can be directly connected with the mosquito control efforts to lower the odds of getting that infectious bite that can ultimately take someone’s life.

The certification course trains pest managers at DoD installations across the country in aerial spray theory, aerial spray math, C-130H Hercules operations, Modular Aerial Spray System operations, spray area mapping, weather condition effects on aerial spray and much more on which the students are tested on in order to be certified.

Haagsma said that five of the approximately 21 entomologists across the Air Force are assigned to the 910th.

“Anybody that’s actually going to apply pesticides by aircraft in the DoD has to be properly certified by the EPA,” said Haagsma. “Our course provides EPA category eleven certification for pest management professionals. We have to follow a pretty strict curriculum as far as what we actually have to teach and points that we need to get across. Technically, any DoD entomologists can teach it but I think our unit is the best suited to teach.”

Fifteen DoD pest managers participated and were certified in result of this year’s aerial spray certification course.