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Bioenvironmental paves way for radiological operations

An airman uses a tool to detect radiation

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jajuan Erby, 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental technician, uses a high volume air sampler to test simulated radiation in the air during phase II of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 13, 2019. During the exercise, Airmen are tested on their ability to survive and operate within a simulated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Irvin)

An airman gives a brief

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Santino Cozza, 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental engineer, briefs exercise participants on the radiological protection procedures during phase II of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 15, 2015. Phase II is divided into two sub-phases: phase IIa stresses Airmen’s ability to survive and operate in a simulated chemical environment; phase IIb stresses their ability to survive and operate in a simulated radiological environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

An airman uses a tool to scan for radiation

Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing perform decontamination protocol during a simulated radiological aircraft recovery effort during phase IIb of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 16, 2019. Phase IIb marked the first time the radiological domain was tested as a portion of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jessica Cicchetto)

An airman uses a tool to scan for radiation

Two Airmen from the 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Bioenvironmental Flight, prepare to inspect a C-130J Super Hercules during a simulated radiological aircraft recovery during phase IIb of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 16, 2019. Phase IIb marked the first time the radiological domain was tested as a portion of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford)

An airman uses a tool to scan for radiation

Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing perform decontamination protocol during a simulated radiological aircraft recovery effort during phase IIb of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 16, 2019. Phase II is divided into two sub-phases: phase IIa stresses Airmen’s ability to survive and operate in a simulated chemical environment; phase IIb stresses their ability to survive and operate in a simulated radiological environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford)

An airman uses a tool to scan for radiation

An Airman from the 19th Civil Engineer emergency management uses Alpha Probe-100 to monitor aircrew members for the presence of alpha radiation contamination as part of a simulated decontamination effort during phase IIb of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 16, 2019. Phase IIb marked the first time the radiological domain was tested as a portion of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford)

Aircrew walks away from a C-130J

Aircrew members from the 61st Airlift Squadron walk toward a simulated decontamination area during phase IIb of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 16, 2019. Phase II is divided into two sub-phases: phase IIa stresses Airmen’s ability to survive and operate in a simulated chemical environment; phase IIb stresses their ability to survive and operate in a simulated radiological environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jessica Cicchetto)

Airmen receive a brief

Exercise participant from the 19th Airlift Wing receive a briefing on radiological protection procedures during phase II of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 15, 2015. Phase II is divided into two sub-phases: phase IIa stresses Airmen’s ability to survive and operate in a simulated chemical environment; phase IIb stresses their ability to survive and operate in a simulated radiological environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

An Airman scans a plane for radiation

An Airman from the 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Bioenvironmental Flight, inspects a C-130J Super Hercules during a simulated radiological aircraft recovery during phase IIb of ROCKI 20-01 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 16, 2019. Phase IIb marked the first time the radiological domain was tested as a portion of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jessica Cicchetto)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

The 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Bioenvironmental Flight led the way during November’s ROCKI 20-01, a multiple-phase full spectrum readiness exercise, by providing essential information to commanders about the effects chemical and radiological hazards have on Airmen.

The team's efforts were tested during phase II of the exercise. Phase IIA consisted of simulated chemical threats and Phase IIB involved operating in a simulated radiological environment. Bioenvironmental Airmen had to make determinations on what protective measures should be taken in order for Airmen to safely continue operations.

“As bioenvironmental engineers, our ultimate goal is to optimize the performance of Airmen through their health,” said 1st Lt. Santino Cozza, 19th OMRS bioenvironmental engineer.

Radiological and chemical hazards are potential threats to Airmen in contingency operations. While protecting assets during such threats is vital to mission success, the 19th OMRS Bioenvironmental Engineer Flight protects the Air Force’s most important assets -- Airmen.

“We care about the human aspect and what happens to the body when it is exposed to things like chemicals and radiation,” said Staff Sgt. Crystal Przybylski, 19th OMRS bioenvironmental engineer. “We determine how long it will take for your body to start degrading in any aspect, whether it's acute radiation sickness, burns or long term chronic effects that you might feel down the road.”

The dangers of radiation exposure makes the push for radiological readiness essential for sustaining the mission in any environment. 

“Our role becomes extremely vital in a radiological situation,” Cozza said. “Radiation isn’t something that you can smell or feel -- it interacts with you on a cellular level.”

Phase IIB of ROCKI 20-01 put the team’s radiological capabilities to the test, being the first time it has been implemented into an exercise at Little Rock AFB.

“To detect radiation, you need to have very specialized equipment,” Cozza said. “We have that equipment and have the capability of using it, understanding what it is reading, interpreting the results, and ultimately finding out the biological effects that will occur.”  

While the exercise only simulated a radiological environment during contingency operations, potential real-world threats stand as a constant reminder of the importance of being able to perform in any condition. 

“A lot of people don’t understand radiation,” Cozza said. “We are stepping into this period where dealing with radiation could potentially become a reality. It is important to recognize the threat that is out there, adapt to it, and be ready to overcome it.”

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