Airmen push mission through heatwave

  • Published
  • By 127th Public Affairs
The mission of the 127th Wing doesn't stop because of the heat, and Airmen here continue to work on the flightline and in aircraft hangars through some of the hottest days metro-Detroit has seen in recent history.

"When you are working outdoors, as our Airmen on the flight line are doing, it is critical that you take steps to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses," said Lt. Col. Bill Henderson, chief of safety for the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.

Some of the aircraft at Selfridge are parked under sun-shades but others are out in the open. Airmen working on those aircraft are often in direct sunlight.

MSgt. Lloyd Miller, a bioenvironmental engineer with the 127th Medical Group, takes hourly Wet Bulb Globe Temperatures at the base and broadcasts them  out to the base population who work out in the extreme outdoor conditions. The thermometer device he uses has a computer designed to find the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, which measures not just temperature, but overall physical stress created by weather conditions. The computer takes into account things like humidity, wind speed and radiant heat exposure.

The WBGT provides an indication of how those in easy, moderate, or hard work conditions should be performing in certain conditions.  This week has held periods of time which have had wet bulb readings above 90 degrees, or in the black category, which means very strenuous outside work should be avoided, and even moderate work should be done for only periods of 10 minutes, with 50 minutes of rest and include a quart of water intake. 

How does this impact the mission? 

The mission is slowed, but not stopped, said Major David Dominissini, commander of the 191st Maintenance Squadron at the base.

"We hold a daily production meeting each morning at which we predict the impact of the day's weather,"  Dominissini said.   The daily meeting allows maintenance crews to figure in work/rest cycles into the daily mission needs, but the commander said the hard part is getting the Airmen to adhere to the rest cycles.   "Obviously, anyone working on the flightline is focused on getting that jet out. It's our responsibility as leaders to ensure the safety of the Airmen out there working."   

"Drinking water and taking breaks are important, but we also employ the Wingman-system," Henderson added. "We stress the concept of teamwork - keeping an eye out for your Wingman who is working next to you. If someone does start feeling bad, we get them out of the sun, hydrate them, and into a cooler place immediately."