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Flight safety office brings Balad bird strikes down 30 percent

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/20/2007 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN)  -- With the help of volunteers from around the base, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing flight safety office reduced the number of bird strikes on aircraft by 30 percent here in November.

They accomplished this through the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program, which uses awareness and proactivity to reduce the number of bird-strike threats against aviation assets.

"We are here preserving the Air Force's combat capabilities," said Master Sgt. Brian Saunders, a flight safety office member." Last year alone $42 million in damage was done to Air Force aircraft from bird strikes."

Helping Sergeant Saunders alleviate the avian threat is the "BASH Militia." A team of Army and Air Force volunteers from different specialties throughout the base, armed with pellet rifles to deprivate fowl flocks.

"It's nice to get away from routine work in the office," said Senior Airman Corey Pierce, a 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron member. "It's fun and you're helping the Air Force in the process."

For larger birds, like ducks near ponds, the sergeant uses a 12-gauge shotgun filled with clay shots. "The clay shots don't go as far," said Sergeant Saunders, so there is almost no chance of a ricochet hitting anything other than the intended target.

The bird-strike threat is very real. "Birds have been known to take down aircraft and destroy engines, and as a result, kill people," Sergeant Saunders said.

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