By Air Force Airman 1st Class Gerald Willis 36th Wing
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam, Oct. 30, 2017 — On the isolated Pacific island of Guam, protecting the limited natural resources and establishing a safe working environment is essential to mission success.
The 36th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight here takes on the task of seeking out possible health hazards and bolstering the mission by leading the way in personal safety.
In the same way that the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects employees at work, bioenvironmental technicians monitor and assure a safe and healthful working environment for service members.
"Our biggest task is identifying and quantifying hazards to make a health risk assessment and certify conditions are not hazardous to employees or the environment," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jean Archambeau, bioenvironmental engineering flight's noncommissioned officer in charge. "Our job is very vast, and we fit into a variety of specialties. We conduct routine water sampling at various locations on base -- to include the dining facilities, passenger terminal and schools -- to ensure drinking water is within standards. We also perform respiratory protection tests for industrial workers and gas mask fit testing for all service members."
Monitoring High-Traffic Sites
The flight monitors multiple high-traffic sites on base year round, frequently conducting tests such as chlorine and pH level water examinations or heat index calculations using the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature system.
"Most days on Guam, the heat index reaches [90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher] and can be a health issue for those that work outside if the proper controls are not in place," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Jackson, a bioenvironmental engineering technician. "The Wet Bulb Global Temperature is the safest way to measure the heat stress in direct sunlight. This information is used to assess risks and activate safety measures so the mission may continue as safely as possible in any environment."
As U.S. service members, Andersen airmen are trained often to be able to complete the mission in a variety of hazardous working environments such as intense heat or training for potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threatened areas.
"For the operational readiness exercise Sling Stone 17-1, we have been outfitting the base with the proper [personal protection equipment] through our M50 gas mask fitment program." Jackson said. "We have been handling around 15 mask fit tests a day leading up to the [operational readiness exercise], well on our way to our goal of getting the base to 100 percent fitted. During the exercise, it will be important that all airmen are comfortable with their equipment and safe while performing their duties."
The technicians are dedicated to safeguarding the health of all airmen here. They have been instrumental in helping the Air Force to have the lowest disease and nonbattle injury rating in the history of warfare as of 2015, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Dr. Lee E. Payne, former Air Force Medical Operations Agency commander, who now is the Air Mobility Command surgeon.
"We are here to protect all airmen from potential risks on any given day," Archambeau said. "Upholding the safety standards and properly outfitting our airmen with the protective equipment they need for any environment will always be mission-essential."