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Bioenvironmental Flight ensures Airmen can breathe, drink at ease

Airman 1st Class Michael Mannarino, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, reads a device used to read the pH level in water June 21, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Bioenvironmental Flight uses a range of tools to test water, air and soil for hazardous materials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Airman 1st Class Michael Mannarino, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, reads a device used to read the pH level in water June 21, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Bioenvironmental Flight uses a range of tools to test water, air and soil for hazardous materials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Senior Airman Kevin Morgan, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, assembles an XMX machine June 20, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The XMX is a vacuum that takes in air and runs it through water which can then be tested for chemicals and biological material. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Senior Airman Kevin Morgan, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, assembles an XMX machine June 20, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The XMX is a vacuum that takes in air and runs it through water which can then be tested for chemicals and biological material. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Senior Airman Kevin Morgan, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, digs through a Quicksilver Kit June 20, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The kit contains multiple ways to test air, water and soil for hazardous materials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Senior Airman Kevin Morgan, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, digs through a Quicksilver Kit June 20, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The kit contains multiple ways to test air, water and soil for hazardous materials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Airman 1st Class Michael Mannarino, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, fills a vial with pool water June 21, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Bioenvironmental Flight test the base pool to ensure it is safe to swim. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Airman 1st Class Michael Mannarino, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, fills a vial with pool water June 21, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Bioenvironmental Flight test the base pool to ensure it is safe to swim. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Airman 1st Class Michael Mannarino, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, uses a device to test the chlorine levels in the base pool June 21, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Mannarino has to test different areas in the pool to come up with an average chlorine level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Airman 1st Class Michael Mannarino, 14th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Technician, uses a device to test the chlorine levels in the base pool June 21, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Mannarino has to test different areas in the pool to come up with an average chlorine level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- They are the ones who run in after a dangerous chemical spill or a biological attack in order to protect Airmen. They make routine visits to ensure a work environment’s air, water, and materials are clean and free of toxins and other harmful substances.

The 14th Medical Operations Squadron’s Bioenvironmental Flight ensures wherever Airmen work, they can complete the mission safely.

Capt. Thomas Witter, 14th MDOS Bioenvironmental Flight Commander, believes in practicing “preventive medicine.” Witter said their mission is to identify hazards in a work environment, find where they come from, how far the hazard has spread and find a way to clean it up.

Bioenvironmental covers a lot of different things. One of their daily tasks include doing routine visits to shops around base. This allows them to establish rapport with fellow wingmen so that they feel comfortable reporting a hazard and the Airmen know exactly who to call for help.

Another common task is doing monthly water samples around base. The sampling ensures that dangerous chemicals have not contaminated our drinking water, showers or any water used for personal consumption.

Lastly, Bioenvironmental fits Airmen with gas masks. Every Airman has to make sure they can safely and properly wear a gas mask while deployed. Bioenvironmental tests the seals of the mask with the Airmen’s heads to ensure there is an air tight seal.

However, the job comes with a unique set of challenges.

“Figuring out what the hazard is and knowing how much is there is a challenge,” Witter said. “Every installation has different chemicals in the ground and different material. It is important to know what is around in order to prevent an accident.”

At bases in the U.S., Bioenvironmental does mostly occupational safety. Their time to shine is when there is a new work site overseas. They are sent in to test all the resources, make sure there are no chemical or biological hazards, and plan for a possible incident. Witter gave one example of how water is used for everything, therefore it is vital to keep it clean.

“Overseas is where we do a lot of the vital jobs,” Witter said. “Going into a new site, we have to figure what is in the ground, water and air in order to keep the Airmen safe.”

The Bioenvironmental Flight has no shortage of equipment for testing. Their tools range from direct reading instruments, mass spectrometers, and a small lab for water testing. These tools are used to test pH levels in water, radiation in the air, and different biological substances that could be potentially harmful.

This career field is one that has a new challenge every day
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“Working in the Bioenvironmental Flight is a challenge,” said Senior Airman Kevin Morgan, 14th MDOS Bioenvironmental Technician. “There is always something to do and every day is never the same.”