AFMC Command News

One Bioenvironmentalist heads to Guatemala

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Gerhardt
  • 188th Wing

Bioenvironmentalists mission is to provide worldwide operational health risk assessment expertise to optimize human performance, enhance commander decision making, and health services support. 

“We use risk management principles to reduce environmental health risks and exposures,” said MSgt. Timothy Booth, a bioenvironmental medical technician with the 188th Wing. “Our biggest portion is occupational health and identifying anything that could cause harm to a person immediately or in the long-term.”

Their expertise is used to provide commanders with the most accurate assessment of how the identified hazard may affect personnel/mission operations and how personnel can be best protected from those hazards. 

When a risk is identified, Booth analyzes them and find ways to mitigate them through education, training, administrative controls, or finding out what type of personal protective equipment could be used to prevent the hazard.

“From a health perspective, we’re more concerned with personal exposure,” said Booth. “For example, we analyze sound pressure — how long can someone be around a piece of equipment before they start suffering hearing loss and what type of protection do they need?”

Other aspects of the job focus on indoor air quality, providing respirator fit tests, and conducting industrial hygiene, heat stress prevention, noise surveys, and drinking water.

Just like their active-duty counterparts, they work closely with Environmental, Safety, and Emergency Management to provide medical health risk assessments from environmental hazards through chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) attacks. 

With CBRN, Booth’s team can determine permeation or breakthrough potential for personnel protective equipment (PPE), calculate maximum use concentrations for respiratory protection, track radiation exposures, and maintain incident response exposure records for military personnel.  Most BEEs are also hazardous materials (HAZMAT) Operations/Technician/Specialist trained and can suit up and make entry alongside the emergency management responders.

Bioenvironmentalists also work with Wing Safety by maintaining the installation hazard communication (HAZCOM) program to ensure personnel using hazardous chemicals are aware of the potential hazards present. 

“We also assist with the Confined Space Program to identify potential health hazards and assist in monitoring atmospheric hazards,” said Booth. “Locally, our BEE shop also serve as unit safety representatives for the medical group. Personally, I hold a Certified Safety and Occupational Health Specialist (CSHO) certification from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) to maximize our safety program.”  

In October, Booth will be traveling to Guatemala for the first time with other personnel in the 188th Medical Group for a joint, Medical Ready Training Exercise (MEDRETE) mission with the Navy. At the 188th Wing’s site, there will be 20 Air National Guard medics, 20 host-nation medics, and 20 Naval corpsmen providing care.

“When we arrive in Guatemala, we will do an occupational and environmental assessment,” said Booth. “When you’re going to a place that is not established and you’re setting up tools, equipment in a temporary infrastructure, the chance of personal exposure to hazards increases. We identify those and try to reduce any hazards.”