Master Sgt. Curtis Campbell
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Since 2014, Misawa’s airfield has encountered approximately 13 incidents involving bird strikes. Striving to keep the airfield free of birds, Master Sgt. Curtis Campbell, the 35th Fighter Wing bird aircraft strike hazard coordinator, and his team, play a critical role in keeping the mission going and ultimately ensuring the safety of Misawa pilots.
“The bird aircraft strike hazard, or BASH, program saves our pilot’s lives,” said Campbell. “The goal of this program is to remove all hazards on the flightline and bird mitigation is a huge part of that. If there’s a certain amount of birds on the flightline, air operations could be halted.”
Although the safety office claims ownership of the BASH program, it is driven by its 30 volunteers who know how to navigate the flightline and are qualified on the 870 shotgun.
“We can get alerted for potential bird hazards at any time throughout the day,” Campbell continued. “It’s very important to have dedicated volunteers who can help when we’re called.”
Every morning, the 35th Operations Support Squadron publishes a bird watch condition ranging from low to moderate and severe. The categories change depending on how much activity is on the airfield and certain actions are implemented. In moderate and severe bird watch conditions, awareness and vigilance is increased and sometimes approval to conduct air operations is needed.
“We often go out with a pellet gun as often as we can to intimidate the birds, making them feel unsafe,” said Tech. Sgt. Jermiah Angell, 35th OSS BASH team member. “As a last resort we depredate them from the flightline.”
On days when birds pose a threat, the BASH team relies on their passive measures to keep the flightline bird-free and use their active measures during isolated incidents posing a threat. Their passive measures consist of BASH cannons, anti-perching spikes, deceased bird decoys on airfield systems and routine grass cutting. These tools promote an unsafe environment for the birds, like a farmer’s scarecrow warding them away.
Soon, Misawa will see a new technique of bird scare tactics when they unveil the “Scary Man” on the runway. Being the first military installation to use this scarecrow-like invention, Campbell and his team hope to continue keeping birds off the airfield and practicing measures to ensure military and commercial aircraft utilizing the runway are safe from all bird strike incidents.
“The ‘Scary Man’ is mobile unit and it will allow us to quickly move to problematic areas,” said Campbell. “It is a new tool that the birds in the area haven’t yet experienced. It has been effectively used in agriculture scenarios so I have high hopes for it. We will be one of the first bases to implement this tactic.”
When all other tactics fail, both Campbell and Angell use their passion for hunting to ultimately rid the airfield of these birds to keep it safe.
“It’s not about depredating these birds on the flightline, it’s about keeping our pilots safe and ensuring our aircraft are not damaged,” said Angell.
Campbell also stresses the importance of controlling the environment around the flightline. Although the birds may be depredated, they are potentially saving a pilot's life.
“The BASH team is the primary unit for depredation,” said Campbell. “We have people on the team that do not like to depredate and the advice I give them is they are potentially saving a life and a multi-million dollar aircraft. We depredate only after all other options have been exhausted and if there is an immediate danger to safety of flight. We depredate strictly to prevent mishaps.”
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