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Bug docs bring unique experience to unique mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Juliet Louden
  • 910th Airlfit Wing Public Affairs

Mosquitoes are a nuisance that most people could live without. Not only do they bite, but they can also carry infectious diseases.

At the 910th Airlift Wing, there are five people who play a unique and crucial role in solving the mosquito problem through the aerial spray mission.

“We provide the science and technological support for the aerial spray mission,” said Lt. Col. Mark Breidenbaugh, 910th Airlift Wing Chief Entomologist. “We make recommendations on how to control the specific vectors based on species types, geographic location and environmental conditions.”

With more than 175 types of mosquitos in the U.S. and some prone to carrying diseases such as the West Nile virus, Breidenbaugh said their job deals with serious public health issues.

“We want to be part of a preventative healthcare that kills the mosquito before it can bite someone and possibly cause a serious health issue for the person infected,” said Breidenbaugh 

Breidenbaugh is not alone is his fight against the issues involving mosquitos. His team of entomologists here have more than 100 years combined experience, and these Airmen each bring their talents and civilian experience to the table.

“I am lucky to have a highly qualified staff who are doing things in the civilian world that directly relate to entomology,” said Breidenbaugh. “They cover various expertise in our career field.”

The senior member of the aerial spray team, Lt. Col. Don Teig brings more than 31 years of military experience as an entomologist, and specifically, 22 years at the 910th Airlift Wing. His civilian and military work experience is essential to the entomology team here.

As a civilian, Teig works at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. He is a pest management subject matter expert and has written the Air Force Instruction for aerial application pesticides for more than 10 years.

“The best way to improve policy is finding ways to improve,” said Teig. “I am able to relate all training, certification, policy and operations all together. It makes for a holistic approach to the whole process. I go from hands-on, to developing process, going on missions, training others do to the job, and representing the Air Force.”

Teig said his job allows him to work closely with other military branches, visit different bases and support the whole Department of Defense in aerial spray efforts.

“Teig writes Air Force policy and brings a tremendous amount of knowledge in pest control,” said Breidenbaugh. “I call him all the time for advice.”

910th entomologist Lt. Col. Jen Remmers works as a contract consultant on a wide variety of mosquito management, such as malaria control, pesticide, registration of pesticides and development of new pesticides.

“Knowing about the pesticide registration process and new pesticide products gives me an edge on the military side,” said Remmers. “It keeps us ahead of the curve and what is headed down the pipeline from the civilian side in the future.”

In her experience, Remmers has found military entomologists are held in high regard. She remembers one of her civilian employers saying, “We know you are good, because you a military entomologist.”

910th entomologist Lt. Col. Karl Haagsma, formerly worked as a pest control advisor in California. Haagsma is an Air Reserve Technician, which combines his civilian and military careers.

“I have a pretty solid background in insect pest population monitoring and understanding the principles of the integrated pest management,” said Haagsma.

“Haagsma possesses great teaching abilities and has an extensive knowledge in pesticide mode of action, statistics and research,” said Breidenbaugh.

Another entomologist on the 910th team is Lt. Col. Tom Janousek. Janousek has more than 22 years military experience and owns a business in the civilian world. His civilian career blends well with his military role in the Air Force Reserve.

“The spray missions are very similar to my experiences in my civilian job,” said Janousek. “There is a big overlap, which means the learning curve is lower. I am always learning something and there are good things both ways.”

Although these entomologists have five unique backgrounds, all chose to serve in the Air Force Reserve.

“Part of my drive for being here is my love for aviation,” said Remmers. “I grew up around planes. I love being around the aviation atmosphere. It makes me happy.”

The combination of their years of experience in both their civilian and military entomology jobs has led to an extremely talented team of entomologists who represent the Air Force Reserve in successfully completing aerial spray missions.