Air Force Reservists Majors Mark Breidenbaugh and Karl Haagsma (left to right), medical entomologists with the 757 Airlift squadron, 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown, Ohio, discuss areas to be aerial sprayed over Terrebonne Parish, LA. Entomologist duties include identifying target pests, defining areas to be aerial sprayed, prescribing treatment rates and chemicals to be applied, and accompanying flight crews on spray missions to ensure proper pesticide application. The 757 AS was tasked September 13 with the aerial application of pesticides to control insects capable of transmitting disease. The 757 AS flies specially equipped Lockheed C-130s with Modular Aerial Spray Systems. The aerial spray unit treated seven parishes comprised of more than 750, 000 acres Sept 21 to October 2. U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Brent J. Davis
Over the course of history, disease has killed more soldiers than combat. Militaries, the United States military in particular, have become expert on hygiene and disease vector control. Ensuring pure drinking water, proper placement of latrines and insect control are all part of that effort.
The United States military has a proud history of working to control insect populations to eradicate disease. The people of Cuba and Panama saw that as officers like Walter Reed fought to control the mosquito population and control the terrible outbreaks of yellow fever and malaria. With diseases under control, the people could live a longer and healthier life and economic growth was possible.
In World War II hundreds of thousands of people were dusted with DDT to control lice, the vector for the spread of typhus. Water purification was key to preventing cholera and dysentery.
Today, this same attention to control and prevention continues. The 910th Aerial Spray Maintenance Flight of the Air Force Reserve’s Aerial Spray Squadron from Youngstown, Ohio is one of the key units tasked with that mission. Because of its capabilities, it is also the go-to unit for civilian incident managers under the National Incident Management System (NIMS) when civilian resources are exhausted or unavailable.
When Hurricanes Ike and Gustav hammered the Louisiana Gulf coast, local measures to control mosquito populations were destroyed or overwhelmed. The State of Louisiana requested Federal assistance through FEMA and the call went to the 757th Airlift Squadron and the 910th Aerial Spray Maintenance Flight.
Lt. Col. John Williams, commander of the 757th Airlift Squadron, Maj. Karl Haagsma (Ph.D.), an entomologist attached to the Aerial Spray group of the 757th, and SMSgt. John Daniels, chief of the 910th Aerial Spray Maintenance Flight spoke with me today to describe their mission to Louisiana.
Lt. Col Williams provided the following facts and figures:
- Mission took place September 21 to October 2 2008
- 3 aircraft and over 50 personnel deployed to Barksdale AFB
- 800,000 acres of Louisiana were sprayed
- Each aircraft had 6 flight crew, a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer, and two enlisted personnel in the rear to operate the equipment
- Flights were conducted at a height of 150 feet above the terrain during the two hours before sunset
- This unit has been tasked for aerial spraying duties since 1992
Senior Master Sgt. Daniels briefed on the system.
The 910th flies modified C-130 aircraft. The Modular Aerial Spray Systems (MASS) system used is loaded on board on roll on-roll off pallets. It consists of 4 â€“ 500 gallon tanks, a control system and a flush tank. The spray is applied at a rate of 0.5 ounces per acre, with a max rate of 0.75 ounces per acre where necessary. The spray nozzles are deployed through holes in the paratrooper doors. For this mission, thirteen nozzles were used, six to one side and seven on the other. This resulted in a spray pattern, depending on wind and weather, of 1,000 to 2,000 yards in width.
Maj. Karl Haagsma talked about the insecticide and its use.
The insecticide used is dibrom. It is disbursed in a very fine mist and attaches itself to flying mosquitoes. The insecticide can only be applied within two hours of sunset to avoid application to other, beneficial insects and to maximize the exposure of mosquitoes that are most active at that time. Tests have shown that dibrom in this dose has little effect on larger insects such as dragonflies.
Bees are sensitive to dibrom but are generally in their hive at the time spraying is conducted. A number of warnings are also issued through local media and directly to local beekeepers to allow them time to take precautions such as covering their hives.
The MASS system can also be used to apply herbicide, to apply chemicals to disperse oil spills and is being tested for other uses. It can utilize wing-mounted nozzles as well.
The 910th was deployed for Hurricane Katrina and the other Gulf hurricanes that season and sprayed 2.8 million acres in that mission.