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Bioenvironmental Engineering: helping to keep Guardsmen healthy

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Kenney, bioenvironmental engineer
  • 111th Attack Wing
Many people know us, but few people know just what we do. When asked, some respond: "(Bioenvironmental engineers) run the gas mask fit test program." Another may answer: "They come around to my shop and make sure I'm wearing (personal protection equipment)." While both of those are true, the bioenvironmental career field has many more aspects; it is truly multifaceted.

So, what do BEEs really do?

BEE technicians focus on supporting all aspects of our wing's mission such as: flight operations, maintenance, aerial port, logistics, vehicle maintenance, civil engineering and services. We are ready to mitigate hazards that Airmen face each day--from natural hazards to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environment (CBRNE) threats.

We train on specialized equipment to survey hazards including noise, air contamination, water quality and industrial chemical presence. We work frequently with lasers, electro-magnetic frequency radiation, ionizing radiation and ergonomics.

It's not just about reading regulations. Our training enables us to sample any elements and analyze them for hazards in the field or in a lab. We can then identify possible exposures to Airmen and help to eliminate or mitigate the hazard through PPE and designing controls.

Bottom line: Airmen are kept safer and healthier by the behind-the-scenes work of the wing's BEEs.

The broad mission of the Air Force creates a complex environment with many dangers. Because the Air Force's greatest asset is its people, a high priority is placed on their safety and occupational health. Many times a hazard will not have immediate effects, but can lead to serious problems days, months or even years later. These can include, but are not limited to, hearing loss, chronic pain or even cancer.

A primary way the Air Force can help overcome mission hazards is through teamwork. The team includes BEE's, safety, supervisors and each Airman. Individual Airmen not only maintain standards, but act as eyes and ears for the team to identify problems. Standards are developed enable us to do things safely - every time. BEE's develop relationships with all the various shops and with our Airmen to get their job done!