Among the typical crews for disaster relief in mainland Japan is an atypical crew.
Amid concerns for the environment, two Airman from the 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron’s Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight has responded to the disasters there.
While other crews from here perform search-and-rescue operations and work to restore power in the neighboring cities, the 18th AMDS has deployed to Honshu island, sometimes known as mainland Japan, to aid Yokota AB in the testing for radiation and other contaminates in the surrounding environment.
“We can check the integrity of the water along with conducting health assessments for hazards such as the exposure to radiation, (dangerous) chemicals and materials, and anything else that could harm the local populations,” said Tech. Sgt. Joanie Long, the bioenvironmental engineering flight readiness NCO in charge.
Though Sergeant Long stayed behind on this trip, she said the entire unit would have jumped at the opportunity to help more if they could.
“We just keep asking, ‘What could we do more?'” Sergeant Long said. “If we could, we’d all jump on the plane and go so we could help out.”
With these situations being so rare, most of the individuals in this career field may have trained for years without having to implement their skills in real-life situations.
Nineteen-year veteran Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Winslow, the bioenvironmental engineering flight chief and member of the deploying crew, said the last time he performed in a real-world emergency was 10 years ago, when he worked to detect uranium around a nuclear reactor at his first base.
Though it’s been a decade since he had to perform outside of an exercise environment, Sergeant Winslow said the team has been training vigorously over the years to prepare for situations like this one.
“I’ve been training (for this kind of situation) for 19 years,” Sergeant Winslow said. “We spend a lot of hours training every week, and with all of our experience in exercises and training, we’re very capable. I’m looking forward to being able to use my skill to help someone.”