Program fights mosquitoes, trains Airmen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Dave Wilson
  • Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs
Air Force Reserve Command is expanding its Innovative Readiness Training, or IRT, program this summer to help communities control mosquitoes.

C-130 Hercules aircrews will spray Williston and Minot in North Dakota June 30-July 3, and York County and the City of Poquoson in Virginia July 22-26. These communities are prone to high mosquito populations due to standing water, flooding and high precipitation.

In addition to drastically decreasing the number of irritations and infections, and the threat of West Nile Virus due to mosquito bites, these IRT missions will provide essential real-world training to aircrews, pest management personnel and maintenance members that they would not have otherwise received.

"From an aircrew perspective, this type of training is necessary for the safe, efficient performance of our assigned duties," said Maj. W. Travis Adams, an aerial spray instructor pilot.

Adams and his fellow citizen Airmen from the 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, perform the Department of Defense's only full-time, fixed-wing aerial spray mission.

They typically conduct a variety of aerial spray missions over military installations, and for federal agencies using four specially modified aircraft equipped with Modular Aerial Spray Systems, or MASS. The MASS equipment sprays insecticides that target biting insects such as mosquitoes, biting midges and filth flies.

The IRT program provides a clear line of authority for the 910th AW to apply aerial spray on non-federal property without the requirement of a host federal entity. That means citizen Airmen can provide aerial spray over much larger urban areas, and receive essential training they don't get from regular operations.

According to Maj. Kerya Reyes, the chief of the IRT program at Headquarters AFRC, the command has used IRT missions successfully in other career fields, including civil engineering and medical squadrons. Citizen Airmen benefit from the training received while building dams, bridges and other community-use structures or working immunization lines and other medical treatments in off-base clinics at little, to no cost to the communities.

Reyes said IRT aerial-spray missions produce highly-qualified military personnel capable of evaluating medical insect-borne threats to troop and public health, as well as establish an appropriately implemented plan to break the cycle of disease transmission, which can result in an epidemic.

Each IRT aerial spray mission trains about 16 to18 reservists. These Airmen can step up to support combatant commander needs, or requests for support from other federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Defense Support of Civil Affairs.

The AFRC and the communities it supports mutually benefit from IRT missions. Communities pay for the insecticide, and the command uses training funds to pay for the rest of the costs. The Air Force already designates specific funds for fuel, maintenance and other travel costs for training.

The command took ownership of the aerial spray mission in 1973, but the U.S. military has been flying the mission since 1947.

The 910th AW started flying the aerial spray mission in 1992. Aerial spray teams also use the systems to control vegetation growth on military bombing ranges, and to help disperse oil spills. Since 2005, the wing has responded to three major natural disasters, including post hurricane applications for Katrina and Gustav, and an oil dispersant operation after Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.