by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
Air Mobility Command
8/20/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Headquarters
Air Mobility Command, in close partnership with the Department of
Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration recently executed a
C-17 Globemaster III mission to repatriate three Husman irradiators
containing radioactive material from Mexico to the United States for
One of the NNSA's primary missions focuses on nonproliferation efforts
and they work closely with a wide range of international partners and
key U.S. federal agencies to detect, secure and dispose of dangerous
nuclear and radiological material.
According to an NNSA press release, the irradiators were provided to
Mexico by the U.S. more than 30 years ago and have played a critical
role in the eradication of a devastating livestock parasite, the
screwworm. At the time of their removal, the three irradiators
contained more than 50,000 curies of cesium-137, a high-activity
radioisotope that could be used by terrorists or other nefarious
organizations to construct a radiological dispersal device.
Due to irradiator's significant size and weight -over 16,000 pounds
each- a comprehensive plan was required to remove the items from the
operating facility, transport them to a nearby airfield and properly
configure them for air transport. For nearly a year prior to mission
execution, Senior Master Sgt. Toby McKnight and Master Sgt. Kim Fabian
from AMC 's Nuclear Airlift Operations Division, provided the NNSA,
Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
critical subject matter expertise regarding various aspects of the
"The NNSA sought out AMC's Nuclear Airlift Branch and specifically
McKnight and Fabian due to their C-17 experience preparing and
transporting nuclear, nuclear-related, and sensitive cargo," said Maj.
Anthony Cappel, HQ AMC Nuclear Airlift Operations deputy chief. "With a
combined 23 years of loadmaster experience, their unique credentials
transporting sensitive material made them indispensable subject matter
experts to the repatriation effort."
To ensure the irradiators would be transported safely and legally,
McKnight and Fabian augmented DOE-led teams on two separate site visits
to develop the plans, coordinate international agreements, and review
host-nation support material and capabilities. Among their many
contributions, they designed a cargo preparation and tie-down plan and
ultimately secured a special cargo certification by the Air
Transportability Test Load Agency for air transport.
Despite a myriad of challenges, the DOE-led team worked closely together
and kept the mission on track. Fabian and McKnight helped coordinate
equipment and an aircraft. A C-17 Globemaster III mission was tasked by
the 618th Air Operations Center at Scott AFB, Illinois and flown by the
4th Airlift Squadron at McChord Field, Washington.
"Although, the irradiators were not classified as nuclear-related
material, the 4th AS was tasked with the mission due to the units'
experience transporting sensitive material," said Fabian.
The 4th AS aircrew transported the material from an airfield in Southern
Mexico to an Air Force base in the United States. The shipment was
then securely transferred to a permanent storage facility.
"We all understood that removing these items to a secure U.S. location
was a top DOE and NNSA priority," said McKnight. "This mission was truly
a Joint and Inter-Agency effort. I feel fortunate to have worked with
such an amazing team to accomplish something so important for our