Senior Airman Rene Martinez, 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health food inspector, checks for proper food labeling at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2012. Foods cannot be served if they have been stored in excess of seven days. Martinez inspects military and commercial eating establishments on base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)
Senior Airman Rene Martinez uses a temperature gun to check the temperature of a refrigeration unit in the exchange food court on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2012. The refrigeration unit – which is shared by food court restaurants -- must maintain a constant temperature to keep food safe. Martinez is a 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health food inspector. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)
Senior Airman Rene Martinez, 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health food inspector, oversees the self-inspection report for Subway at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2012. Martinez conducts inspections at commercial and military dining establishments. The self-inspection is a daily requirement for vendors but must be documented once a week by vendors. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)
Senior Airman Rene Martinez, 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health food inspector, conducts a pH test on a cleaning solution at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2012. The test determines whether the pH levels of cleaning water are in line with standards. Only detergents deemed safe may be used to clean food service areas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)
by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/13/2012 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Protecting more than 5,000 people from food-borne illness is exactly what these Airmen intend to do to keep Osan mission ready.
But prevention is key when it comes to the 51st Aerospace Medicine Squadron's Public Health food inspections section, which actually goes beyond the realms of food and into sanitation for more than 60 facilities around base.
The two assigned food inspectors go out armed with temperature guns, litmus paper, and a wide knowledge of disease control to ensure base food supplies and facilities are in good condition.
"We are medics, but we are not the traditional medics," said Tech. Sgt. Rosemarie Wedderburn, 51st AMDS Public Health community health element chief. "We are the medics that go out and make sure the base is protected."
The main purpose for food inspection is to prevent illness outbreaks and ensure the facilities comply with U.S. Public Health Service food code and food comes from approved sources," she explained.
Looking for everything from package dates, sanitary conditions, and equipment storage, the two inspectors focus on the details that can cause the biggest alarm.
"There are a lot of minor, everyday things that can be overlooked on an average basis, and we make sure we have that covered," said Senior Airman Rene Martinez, 51st AMDS Public Health technician.
These include proper equipment handling and verifying food trucks are properly sealed on arrival.
Food cannot be more than seven days old and water cleaning solutions have to have the right amount of alkalinity, he explained.
"Food centers are required to do daily inspections, and we can come in for unannounced inspections at any time," Martinez said. "We have to make sure we are staying up-to-date because things can change in an instant."
Public facilities -- like the pool and gym -- are also covered by the food inspectors.
"We make sure there is hot water, no mold, and a cleaning schedule that is maintained," Wedderburn said. "This also goes for approved hotels off base. Sanitation is important."
They check children and workers at the child development centers are also looked out to make sure their immunizations are up to date, she said.
In the end, although there is much work to be done, Wedderburn and Martinez know they keep the base safe.
"The best part of this job is knowing that the whole base population can enjoy eating around base and not have to worry about getting sick," Wadderburn said.