Caring for our aina, ohana

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erin Baxter
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs

Oahu is a tropical island teeming with wildlife and pests that often find their way into buildings and on the flightline. 

This is where the 647th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management Airmen specialize. 

“Our shop manages everything from weed control, trapping feral and stray animals, and treating for nuisance pests, like cockroaches or rats,” said Staff Sgt. Renai Shires, 647th CES pest management non-commissioned officer in charge. “We help maintain the quality of life for members on the installation, reduce medical threats in food facilities, and eliminate safety hazards all across the base.”

Pest management, or entomology, is an important part of keeping a safe and healthy environment for JBPHH Airmen and their families, said Senior Airman David Walker, 647th CES pest management journeyman. The job entails a multitude of responsibilities, all dealing with controlling health and wildlife on military installations. They remove animals from the flightline, treat for pests, and help maintain the integrity of the base.

The Airmen in pest management don’t just manage JBPHH, but all military installations on the island of Oahu. 

“One week I’ll be trapping rats in one building while removing bird nests in another,” said Walker. “And then I’m off to another installation to go track and trap hogs or cats that have found their way on a base or in a building.” 

They also partner with various other units and agencies, such as public health, Navy environmental, water and fuel systems maintenance, the 647th Security Forces Squadron, the Department of Agriculture, and Customs and Border Protection. 

“My favorite part of my job is discovering the different wildlife and pests of the bases,” said Shires. “From Osan Air Base in South Korea to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, we deal with completely different animals in our day-to-day jobs. 

To continue to meet their mission in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office divided their personnel and increased the use of personal protective equipment. The squadron continues to respond to work orders to ensure the base remains protected from wildlife infestations.

“The pest management mission has different requirements on each base,” Walker said. “Each area across the globe has unique challenges because the wildlife and guidelines change depending on where you are stationed.” 

“This job can be a hidden gem,” added Shires. “You never stop learning in this career field as each base is different, creating new and exciting challenges.”