Thursday, August 09, 2018

Face of Defense: Hospital Corpsman Helps Battle Mosquito-Borne Diseases

By Rod Hafemeister, Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi

KINGSVILLE, Texas -- It happens every year. South Texas is dry for weeks, then it rains.

And, then come the mosquitoes.

“They can lay their eggs in even the smallest amount of water,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Wright, a hospital corpsman and preventive medicine technician at Naval Branch Health Clinic Kingsville. “If it dries out, the eggs wait until it’s wet again and then hatch.”

She added, “Mosquitoes live to feed, breed and lay eggs. And carry disease.”

According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, 85 species of mosquito have been identified in Texas. If there is a disease that can be transmitted by mosquito, there’s a species that can do it somewhere in Texas.

Disease Carriers

Texas mosquitoes have been found carrying West Nile, chikungunya, dengue, Zika and malaria. Corpus Christi finds mosquitoes carrying West Nile almost every year.

Wright, originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, works to minimize the disease risk. She tracks mosquito populations at Naval Air Station Kingsville and recommends control measures, like fogging.

“So far, including records before I got here two years ago, we haven’t had any trapped mosquitoes test positive for disease,” Wright said. “We’re still tracking on Zika and West Nile -- that’s a big one. Nothing yet, and I hope it stays that way.”

She added, “But we have a mobile population that goes all over the world. Or people can get bit on vacation, come back here, get bit and spread that disease.”

Wright has been in the Navy for seven years and a preventive medicine tech for two. The job includes inspections of food service, childcare and recreational facilities, water systems, bacteriological analysis, epidemiological investigations, mass immunization programs and field sanitation as well as disease vector control.

“It encompasses everything. And I get to go outside,” she said.

But she has a special passion about mosquitoes.

“I hate them. I can’t think of any reason for them to exist except to spread disease,” she said.

‘Mosquito Magnet’

Wright’s primary tool for combating mosquitoes is a ‘mosquito magnet,’ a trap that uses propane to emit a carbon dioxide scent that attracts mosquitoes into a mesh bag.

“I set it up overnight and in the morning extract the mosquitoes, live and dead, package them and ship them overnight to the state lab in Austin,” she said.

The lab sends back results showing the numbers of mosquitoes by species and if any were carrying a disease.

So far this year, there have been few mosquitoes, even with the heavy rains.

Part of that has been due to the ongoing effort in recent years to reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay eggs, such as ensuring there are no abandoned tires or other standing water traps.

Two intermittent ponds were filled in several years ago, also reducing places mosquitoes could breed.

“We go out and pump the water when it could attract mosquitoes,” said Arturo Alvidrez, a performance assessment representative with NASK Public Works.

“We also use insecticide and fogging. I think we have a very effective control program on the base,” Alvidrez added.

And, recent frequent high winds scatter the insects.

“If the winds are high, say above 20 mph, you’re not going to catch anything in the traps,” Wright said.

But Wright’s policy is not to take chances.

“My attitude is, let’s fog and kill them and not have this risk,” she said. “I’d rather make sure everyone is protected.”

Air Force, Army, Navy Cyber Techs Participate in Exercise Patriot Warrior

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley, 927th Air Refueling Wing

FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- Exercise Patriot Warrior featured airmen, sailors and soldiers practicing their cyber defense skills in highly challenging environments.

“We have to stay ready at all times to defend our networks at home and abroad,” said Air Force Senior Airmen Christopher Hillen, an exercise participant. “This exercise is so important, once we get deployed and experience different situations we’re going to lean on the training we received here and apply it to real world situations.”

One part of Patriot Warrior enabled Air Force and Army personnel to interact and train together in realistic scenarios providing both services with a unique perspective on the exercise and future missions.

Challenging Scenarios

“These scenarios provide our soldiers and also the airmen with a very realistic outlook on what both entities could expect in the real world,” said Army Maj. Robert Bell, 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade operations and plans officer. “Everyone learns great lessons in trainings like this, it develops different skills that each other has learned and also builds confidence in our airmen and soldiers.

The exercise was comprised of joint forces from around the country to showcase deployment capabilities and was hosted here. The exercise hosted Army, Navy and Air Force personnel from 22 different bases.

“Working with other services is an invaluable experience for our Airmen and their development as cyber operators,” said Air Force Maj. Bennett Reid, director of operations.

Cyber Combat Support Training

“With this being the first time that we've integrated with the Army in a cyber combat support training exercise, it allowed us to see areas in which we aren't as strong and fix the issue as team,” Reid said. “We got to work with a network we’d never seen before, and we had to learn how to get plugged into our weapon system which we had to learn but it helped us understand how to operate other networks outside of our comfort zone.”

Exercises like Patriot Warrior provide critical contingency oriented skills for all members who participate, but there is also a bigger picture in mind.

“The way the fight is won nowadays is through cyberspace,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Christian Coleman, a reservist from the 911th Communications Squadron cyberspace operations controller and member of the Cyber Mission Defense Team.
“All branches continue to evolve as the battlefield changes and now the World Wide Web is where we have to maintain dominance,” Coleman added.

Colorado Air Force Reservists Support Firefighting Efforts in Western U.S.

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Frank J Casciotta, 302nd Airlift Wing

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Air Force reservists and a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 302nd Airlift Wing deployed yesterday to help combat wildfires in California.

The reservists join the Department of Defense MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group, replacing one of the four currently activated DoD MAFFS-equipped C-130s and aircrews conducting fire suppression missions on record-setting fires in California.

Air Force Col. James DeVere, MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group and 302nd AW commander, said the MAFFS-equipped C-130s have flown more than 150 fire-suppression sorties, including support to California’s Carr and Mendocino fires, since beginning MAFFS operations July 26 at Sacramento McCl;ellan Airport in northern California.

This is the second time the 302nd AW C-130s and Reserve aircrews have been activated to support aerial fire-suppression missions using the U.S. Forest Service MAFFS this year. The first activation took place in early July, supporting fire-suppression efforts in Colorado.

Preparedness Level Raised

On July 27, the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group raised the national preparedness level to the highest level on its 1-to-5 scale due to growth of existing and new fires in California, the Great Basin and Northwest geographic areas.

The DoD MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military airlift wings: the California Air National Guard’s 146th AW; the Nevada ANG’s 152nd AW; the Wyoming ANG’s 153rd AW; and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd AW.

The MAFFS units are owned by the Forest Service and, when installed in a C-130, can discharge up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area  aquarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.
The DoD, through U.S. Northern Command, provides unique military support to firefighting efforts when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the secretary of defense. These diverse mission assets are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to protect lives, property, critical infrastructure and natural resources, and can include, but are not limited to, MAFFS, military helicopters and ground forces capable of supporting firefighting efforts.