by Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Spinner
379th Air Expeditionary Wing
10/29/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA - -- Planes dodge flocks of birds, rodents overrun the dining facility and an army of ants claim dorm rooms as their own. These haven't happened here, but there could if it wasn't for the entomology foreman.
That person comes in the form of Sarah McCauley, a Sallyport Global Holdings Incorporated contractor with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. She spends her days controlling the bird population to prevent aircraft bird strikes, catching the rodents that would plague the dining facility and keeping those pesky insects from invading dorm rooms.
Not only does she work as an entomology foreman contractor, but she is also a pest management journeyman in the Air Force Reserves in the 302nd Civil Engineer Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
On her second tour here, but first time as a contractor, Ms. McCauley is half way through her contract and has been ridding the base of pests for the past six months.
Her days start with a meeting with 379th ECES shop superintendents and foremen at 5:45 a.m., followed by reviewing any work requests from customers that may have come in overnight. Typically her biggest customers are those from the Expeditionary Force Support Squadron's dining facilities and food storage areas, and the Expeditionary Operations Group's flying units.
She sometimes puts in more than 12 hours a day preventing dangers pests can create by maintaining and checking fly bait stations, rodent traps and live traps everyday to keep the dining facilities and food storage areas clean and free of pests. Rodents and insects may carry diseases that can be transferred to humans.
"I keep the (dining facilities) clear of any pest that may try to make them their home," said Ms. McCauley.
She also ensures the safety of the aircrews and those around the airfield by controlling the bird population by shooting pigeons with a pellet gun. Bird mitigation procedures reduce the occurrence of damage to aircraft caused by bird strikes.
Although killing animals is not the most enjoyable portion of her job, she knows how important her part of the mission is to the support personnel and crews that take off and land here every day.
"I chose this career field because, out of all the other jobs I could choose, this one sounded like it would be a blast to do," said Ms. McCauley.
Master Sgt. Henry Thomas, from the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing flight safety office, knows firsthand the importance of bird mitigation on and around an airfield.
"As an airman first class on the base honor guard at Scott (Air Force Base, Ill) I had to work two funerals for crew members who were involved in an accident involving a bird strike. So, it hits home for me. I remember it like it was yesterday," said Sergeant Thomas.
The accident Sergeant Thomas referred to occurred just after takeoff. The aircraft ingested birds into its engines causing them to fail, ultimately losing a $70.2 million aircraft and 24 crew members.
"Here, most bird strikes occur on takeoff and landing, which are the two most critical phases of flight," said Sergeant Thomas.
Birds are not the only creatures that could endanger the aircraft and base members--dogs, cats and fox can cause problems, too. Ms. McCauley traps live animals that may interfere with daily operations or be a danger to personnel, at various locations around the base.
"I trap stray animals that may get feisty and try to attack someone," said Ms. McCauley. "You never know what an animal is thinking, so you always need to use caution around them."
There are inherent dangers associated with the pest management career and working with wild animals, but Ms. McCauley believes it's worth the risk in order to keep others safe.
Part of her job is to assist in the preparation of specimen for testing, after someone has been bitten by an animal, to ensure the base personnel are not in danger of contracting diseases from wild animals. It's a procedure Ms. McCauley knows all too well.
"I caught a fox; and me being an animal lover, gave it water because I don't like to see (animals) suffer ... and the fox came at me and bit my finger," said Ms. McCauley.
Non-aggressive animals are taken downtown to a local shelter where they can be adopted; wild animals, like the desert fox, which is protected in our host country, are released outside the gate.
Although she works long days, Ms. McCauley said she would like to extend her assignment.
"The one thing I think I like most about my job is when I get to help out the animals and don't have to put them down," said Ms. McCauley.
Whether she is controlling the bugs in the dorms or dining facility, or trapping animals around the flight line, base personnel can rest assured knowing her hard work and dedication to her job allows the mission to go on safely.