HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
(Editor’s Note: Last names are being withheld due to operational requirements.)
They creep, crawl and sometimes fly. Even itsy bitsy pests can give people the heebie jeebies.
When there’s a rodent in the room or a swarm of bees in the building, who do the personnel here call?
From managing the mosquito populace to relocating dangerous reptiles, the people of pest management do it all. These specialists take the necessary actions to control and prevent pest infestations on base.
As a preventative measure, managing weeds aids in ensuring the ecosystem is safe.
“Weed control reduces the amount of rodent harborage, controls the insect population, reduces the amount of allergens that may affect personnel and it also gives the base a better appearance,” said Richard, the 49th CES pest management supervisor.
Contrary to popular belief, pest management does not just drown unwanted insects in pesticides.
“Pesticides are a last resort,” said Richard. “In the environment, every creature is a link. If you keep cutting links, eventually the environment is just going to collapse.”
A plant, insect or animal’s ability to thrive varies depending upon the environmental climate. And much like the weather, each day is unpredictable when it comes to controlling the pest population.
To handle this irregularity, pest management personnel conduct surveys and determine actions needed to control infestations of plant and animal pests.
“We look for cracks, crevices and openings in which bugs or animals could access facilities and identify any sanitation issues that could be causing problems,” said Cory, a 49th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management specialist. “No one should have to deal with the annoyance of pests that may create a disease or destroy food, or cause structural damages.”
Those with fears of creepy crawlies definitely appreciate the work these individuals do, but their purpose is far deeper than that. These professionals keep bases free of pests that could carry debilitating infectious diseases, which protects the health and safety of everyone on base.
“Avoiding an outbreak on the base through preventative methods and corrective pest control using integrated pest management techniques is our ultimate goal,” said Richard.
Pest management specialists at Holloman come across numerous types of animals and insects. The most dangerous are four different species of rattlesnakes that dwell in the surrounding area. To ensure each specialist is adequately prepared to deal with any of the venomous snakes they may encounter, they go through training with poisonous rattlesnakes to master the proper techniques and special tools used to capture and subsequently release a snake.
As someone who has been in the pest management career field for more the 36 years, 20 of which were on active duty, Richard feels there’s no better way to train for snake handling than to use actual venomous snakes.
“Getting bit by a snake would be catastrophic,” said Richard. “That’s why we do the training that we do with various types of venomous snakes. We want to make sure we are prepared to safely remove a snake and relocate it someplace else.”
All of this is done to ensure these slithery creatures do not invade workspaces and slow down operations.
Keeping the airfields free from animals to ensure safe takeoff and landings of the aircraft here is another task they accomplish daily to enable the mission to continue.
Regardless of the circumstance, the personnel in pest management keep some of the smallest creatures under control to allow the much bigger mission to be accomplished uninterrupted.
“You never know what to expect each day and that what I like about this job,” said Cory. “Every time I discover a solution to a pest management issue, I feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s rewarding to know that the job I do is beneficial to the base in many different ways.”