People First


Bioenvironmental engineers from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, recently partnered with the Georgia Department of Public Health to partake in the Defense Department initiative to combat the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Kathleen Schmidt, the Georgia DPH vector surveillance coordinator, along with the Dobbins Air Reserve Base engineers, laid traps at the base’s firing range due to it being an area of frequent blood-sucker complaints. Schmidt placed the traps on June 23 and collected bugs the following day for inspection.

The Georgia DPH found that 27 of the mosquitos collected were possibly the species Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, a species known for carrying Zika.

“Aedes albopictus does not go into traps readily, so 27 is a pretty big number,” said Dr. Rosmarie Kelly, a Georgia DPH public health entomologist. “It is definitely the mosquito of concern for this area. The numbers are high, they breed locally, they are aggressive day-time biters, and they are potential vectors for Zika. They don’t fly very far. So something close by is allowing them to breed and lay eggs.”

When more than five or six are in a trap, they are an issue, Kelly said. Overall, the Georgia DPH has seen low numbers of the species, so that adds to this issue.

“The findings surprised us because we weren’t expecting to find this type and number of mosquitos,” said Christine Englemann, a 94th Mission Support Group bioenvironmental specialist.

After these findings, the next step for the base is to take measures to greatly reduce or eliminate the threat from the area by getting rid of their nesting opportunities, Schmidt said.

Changes allow Airmen to
retrain into special ops

In a move to meet the high demand for battlefield Airmen, the Air Force announced changes to retraining and cross-flow, outlined in a policy memorandum from April.

The changes allow Airmen to be released from their current jobs in the Air Force to cross-train into the special tactics career fields, should they be selected following an assessment of physical, mental and psychological attributes.

“This change in policy will allow potential candidates the opportunity to retrain that were not able to previously,” said Chief Master Sgt. Alan Yoshida, the battlefield Airmen training pipeline manager. “Battlefield Airmen career fields historically have high attrition in training. This policy change could benefit the Air Force by increasing the candidate pool to those previously not allowed to cross-train.”

The memo applies to all battlefield Airmen career fields, which includes both conventional and special tactics Airmen. The critically manned career fields for special tactics are special tactics officer (13CX), combat rescue officer (13DX), combat controller (1C2X1), pararescue (1T2X1), and special operations weather (1WOX2). The change also applies to both tactical air control party (1C4X1) and air liaison officer (13LX), but these conventional career fields must first serve as a conventional force before applying for special tactics selection.

Special tactics Airmen are the Air Force’s ground special operations force, integrating airpower in ground special operations missions. Specifically, special tactics Airmen enable global access, precision strike and personnel recovery operations.

Airmen who don’t pass further initial qualifications, such as the assessment and selection process or failure in the battlefield Airmen training pipeline, will be reinstated into their prior career field without any prejudice.

Fiscal 2017 first-term Airman
retraining quotas released

The Air Force has approved 1,688 fiscal year 2017 retraining quotas in 74 Air Force specialty codes for eligible active-duty, first-term Airmen.

“The first-term Airman retraining program allows first-term Airmen, including staff sergeants who are in their first enlistment, to retrain in conjunction with a re-enlistment,” said Master Sgt. Kris Reece, the training policy and procedures superintendent at the Air Force Personnel Center. “This is a great opportunity for Airmen to pursue a different career field while enabling the Air Force to maintain a healthy balance in all enlisted career fields.”

New this year for Airmen interested in retraining is the Air Force Work Interest Navigator tool. The tool, available on the retraining page on myPers, helps Airmen identify potential career fields by answering a series of questions about functional communities, job context and work activities.

“The AF-WIN tool creates a customized job-interest report from your responses and compares your interests to all entry-level AFSCs,” Reece said. “You’ll still want to visit the enlisted retraining advisory, however, because AF-WIN doesn’t tell you if that career field is available or if you’re eligible.”

Retraining opportunities are available in a variety of career fields including cyber, intelligence, pararescue, flight engineer, missile and space facilities and more. Most are open to all eligible Airmen, but some, such as the Aerospace Medical Service career field, require prior qualifications.

Research, technology
help TBI patients

Since the Vietnam War, doctors have seen an increase in service members returning from combat with traumatic brain injuries from blasts. At the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a directorate of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, doctors and therapists use research and technology to help service members with TBI in their recovery.

Dr. Louis French, the center’s deputy director, said NICoE uses this research and technology to study the structure and metabolic activity in the brain, how it metabolizes glucose, where the blood flow is, and the electrical activity in the brain.

“All of those things we want to know go into this idea of function, and we want to visualize those better,” he said. “And the techniques we have developed, there are ways of better visualizing abnormalities in the brain. Once we gain better insight into what these abnormalities are, then we can find ways of targeting treatments better.”


NICoE is the only clinic in the nation to have a magnetoencephalography scanner, or MEG, dedicated to the treatment of TBI, said Dr. John Hughes, a neurologist and the director of the MEG lab. “It’s really unprecedented that an institution can have this dedicated to one disorder,” he said.

The MEG is a technique used to measure and record the brain’s magnetic fields during its normal activity and provide insight into how the brain is functioning, Hughes said. NICoE uses it to study the electrical oscillations in a mildly traumatic brain as well as the physiology of the cortex of the brain and the psychological issues related to it, he said, noting that there are only 40 MEG labs in the country.