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No rest for the pest: 19th CES pest management

Raccoons huddle in the corner of a dumpster.

Raccoons huddle in the corner of a dumpster at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, July 12, 2019. Dumpsters are a common feeding spot for raccoons with no way out. The 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management Flight rescued the raccoons and relocated them off base to Holland Bottoms State Wildlife Management Area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Irvin)

A swarm of bees land on the wing of a C-130J.

A queen bee and her colony swarm on a C-130J Super Hercules in search of a good environment to build a hive at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, May 6, 2019. The 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management Flight worked alongside two local beekeepers to safely remove the bees from the aircraft and properly relocate them to a bee farm off base. (U.S. Air force courtesy photo by Airman 1st Class Laura O’Connor)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

With the health and welfare of Team Little Rock being a top priority, one flight’s main goal is to prevent pests from adversely affecting Airmen.

The 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management Flight ensures the mission remains on track by establishing and maintaining safe, effective and environmentally sound integrated pest management programs.

“Our job is to control disease vectors and pests to prevent the mission from coming to a halt,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Laura O’Connor, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management apprentice. “One of our bigger tasks is conducting daily sweeps along the flight line to ensure the weeds are controlled, as well as checking for animals that could prevent an aircraft from taking off.”

Once pest control is called, the process begins. In the majority of cases, they head to the site to confirm the pest problem. Then, determine the best way to get rid of the problem with the least amount of chemicals possible to both protect the Airmen in addition to the animals, allowing a chance for relocation.

“A big misconception we have around base is we kill the animals we capture,” said Billy Graves, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management coordinator. “In reality, 99 percent of them will be re-located or re-habilitated off base.”

Recently a C-130J Super Hercules preparing for departure was swarming with bees. A queen bee had attempted to make a hive inside the wing of the aircraft, drawing in another few thousand bees. Unable to begin the mission on time, the pest management flight and two local beekeepers went to safely capture all the bees and properly relocate them to a bee farm.

Not only does the flight respond to calls, they also makes sure to remain proactive, coordinating the best time to spray for pests before an infestation occurs.

“We do preventative maintenance on facilities to ensure cleanliness standards are being upheld keeping pests at bay,” O’Connor said.

Having a shop consisting of only four members means each individual has a lot of responsibilities alongside necessary leadership roles required to support operations.

“A big part of being good at your job is enjoying what you do,” Graves said. “O’Connor comes to work every day ready to go, looking forward to what the day has in store.”

O’Connor said she enjoys coming across a trapped animal. After an animal is trapped, she ensures the animal is in good health before relocating them off base to Holland Bottoms State Wildlife Management Area.

O’Connor and the four-member team secure the mission’s success by providing a pest-free environment allowing Airmen to maintain combat airlift around the clock.

For questions or to report a pest call the pest management office at 501-987-6581.

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