Agreement provides convenient occupational health support to AEDC Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 personnel
By Bradley Hicks, AEDC/PA
/ Published July 22, 2019
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Thanks to an agreement between the Air Force and the Food and Drug Administration, help from multiple organizations, and the efforts of members of its workforce, recurring industrial medical support services are once again in place for Air Force civilians employed at AEDC Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland.
The agreement went into effect in May. The support now available to the Tunnel 9 Air Force civilian employees includes medical exams, testing and surveillance for standard hearing conservation and respiratory protection programs. It also includes the annual testing and surveillance required for Air Force civilian members of the AEDC White Oak Confined Space Rescue Team.
Access to these services is providing these employees with greater convenience compared to what was previously available.
Tunnel 9 Air Force employees had access to occupational health support when Tunnel 9 became an AEDC facility in 1997. These services were managed by the Chief of Bioenvironmental Engineering, AEDC headquarters at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.
The employees could receive services at the occupational health clinic at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, formerly known as Bolling Air Force Base. According to Tunnel 9 Project Engineer Arnold Collier, who helped facilitate the recent agreement, Bolling AFB was only around 18 miles from Tunnel 9, assuming employees took the “shortcut.” This route, however, involved driving through the heart of Washington, D.C., in midday or rush hour traffic.
“Medical testing at Bolling Air Force Base took the better part of a day if you went alone, and a full day if you carpooled with a co-worker,” Collier said.
Years later, the exam process was refined. Air Force employees at White Oak were able to receive the same occupational health support locally from the same private vendor providing support to the contractor workforce at Tunnel 9. Collier said medical testing times were reduced to around 3 to 4 hours, around 50 percent of what they were before.
However, this arrangement ended about two years ago. Collier then began working with Master Sgt. Joshua Suggs with the Health Services Office, which is part of the AEDC Test Support Division at Arnold, to find an alternative source of occupational health support for the Tunnel 9 Air Force employees.
These efforts were aided by members of Team AEDC from the Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel Test Branch, the Contracting Division, the Finance Management Division and others in the Health Services Office.
“They faced multiple challenges while exploring options for providing AEDC White Oak the required occupational health support,” Collier said. “Ultimately, a dual-path plan was defined.”
First, the team looked to provide immediate relief from overdue medical testing and surveillance. Contracting awarded a purchase order to an occupational health vendor located near Tunnel 9 for fiscal year 2018.
“This purchase order provided us immediate relief in updating our occupational health exam status to ‘current,’” Collier said. “Tony Clayborne, now retired, and Kelly Pitts, also retired, did most of the heavy lifting to put this purchase order in place. All exams were done in a matter of weeks.”
The transfer of medical records to the Medical Aid Station at Arnold AFB was managed by Tech Sgt. Alexisa Humphrey and Master Sgt. Lashonda Morehead, both with the Health Services Office.
With the short-term solution proving effective, work began on the second of the “dual-path” plan. This path was the establishment of an arrangement that would provide recurring occupational health support for Air Force employees at Tunnel 9.
The AEDC facility at White Oak and the Food and Drug Administration are both tenants of the Federal Research Center Campus in Maryland. Tunnel 9 Site Director Dan Marren reached out to the FDA to see if it could offer any assistance in the way of occupational health services. Personnel from Tunnel 9 later met with Dr. Sacha Gutierrez and CAPT. Dornette Spell-LeSane, the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Chief Medical Officer of FDA Occupational Health Services, respectively.
“We discussed AEDC White Oak’s mission and corresponding occupational health support requirements and FDA’s occupational health mission and capability,” Collier said. “The conclusion of the meeting was that our occupational health requirements, coupled with the proximity of our organizations, coincides with the mission of the FDA Occupational Health Services.”
An interagency agreement between AEDC White Oak and the FDA Occupational Health Services Clinic to provide occupational health support to Tunnel 9 Air Force employees was recently written and approved. Collier said Mike Fain, AEDC financial manager, played an integral role in the writing of this interagency agreement.
“To date, one-half of the Tunnel 9 Air Force employees have received their physicals for the year,” Collier said. “We expect the rest of the physicals to be completed before the end of the fiscal year and look forward to many years of continued support.”