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New trailer equipped for rapid response to biological agents

by Matt Tulis
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

2/8/2007 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNEWS)  -- A ceremony Feb. 6 here marked the first delivery in the Air Force of a laboratory response team trailer.

The trailer is equipped with the Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System, or JBAIDS, which provides rapid analysis of biological agents, an essential capability during an emergency situation.

"This trailer gives us the ability to identify 14 different biological agents safely and quickly," said Col. Kerry Dexter, the 22nd Medical Group commander. "The trailer and its equipment are a self-contained, climate-controlled laboratory with high-tech exhaust hood, 'clean' and 'dirty' sampling rooms and the ability to identify a suspect agent at the DNA level."

The trailer provides two main advantages for base personnel, medical experts said.
First is the ability of 22nd Medical Group specialists to rapidly analyze and identify unknown biological agents on-scene, under safe conditions.

The second advantage is the ability to safely analyze suspect or dangerous environmental samples outside the clinic.

Rapid identification enables commanders to know what they are dealing with and to quickly act to protect wing operations, said Tech. Sgt. Tarah Baxley of the 22nd Medical Support Squadron.

"The trailer allows us to identify biological agents of medical and operational importance from a variety of sample types," Sergeant Baxley said. "What we're doing is testing the specific DNA target for biological agents."

Sergeant Baxley estimates she can provide a "presumptive identification" of an unknown contaminant to the commander in 90 to 195 minutes with the capabilities housed in the new trailer.

"With this new system we can pinpoint an agent and tell exactly what it is," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Keys of the 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron's Bio-Environmental Engineering flight. "From there, that leads to getting the information to the doctors, so they can identify and treat the symptoms to abate any further problems."

Previously, Sergeant Baxley said, a sample would have to be sent to the state lab in Topeka, Kan., a two- to three-hour drive, before analysis began.

"It aids greatly in the detection process and speeds up any clean-up issues and gives us an idea of how to clean it up or how to neutralize it," Sergeant Keys said.

By keeping any potential hazards outside the clinic, responders won't risk critical staff, resources and facilities, Sergeant Baxley said.

"We can never be complacent, no matter where we are in our nation's Air Force," said Brig. Gen. Byron Hepburn, Air Mobility Command command surgeon, during his opening remarks at the ceremony. "This is a key readiness platform for McConnell Air Force Base. We have to always be vigilant, and this is part of that vigilance."

In addition to McConnell, LRT trailers, manufactured by Derby Trailer Technologies in Derby, Kan., also are being delivered to Wright-Patterson, Grand Forks, MacDill, Eglin, Dover, and McGuire Air Force bases.

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