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ELRS Airman keeps HAZMAT in check

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Cleaning supplies for office upkeep, check. Oxygen gas for aviator masks, check. Oil for aircraft flying missions in a contested environment to support U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s combat missions … check and check.

These are just some hazardous materials (HAZMAT) that Senior Airman Erica Garcia, 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron HAZMAT pharmacy technician, orders, stores and inspects to support the mission here.

“She’s pretty new to supply but she’s growing and learning more every day,” said Staff Sgt. Trey Hibbs, 379th ELRS HAZMAT pharmacy technician and Garcia’s supervisor. “She is knowledgeable and has a great work ethic. What we do is vital because we have everything that the base needs generally at any given point.”

During her deployment, Garcia has worked with approximately 18,000 items, routed more than 300 HAZMAT orders, and validated seven rooms for HAZMAT storage in support of units on base.

While Garcia said HAZMAT is generally facilitated by civilians, logistics Airmen are currently responsible for ensuring these materials are up to standard.

When it comes to storing HAZMAT, conditions need to be met and safety measures need to be followed to ensure assets retain the highest quality possible.

“Many things have to be stored over or under 100 degrees,” said Garcia. “We have the air conditioned in each room so everything is at the proper temperature so nothing happens. “We go through our safety binder to know the proper procedures if something happens. If there was a spill in our building or if nitrogen went off, we know how to respond and make sure we’re all safe in the process.”

Attention to detail is critical when inspecting HAZMAT items prior to issuing them to their customers, Garcia said.

“It’s important to catch the expired items because we don’t want to give a customer something that has expired,” said Garcia. “Maybe they’re using this item for an aircraft, or maybe its oil or a battery that needs to be inside a vehicle someone’s driving. It’s important that we make sure that the items that expire go to hazardous waste and [are disposed of].”

Garcia said she has experienced personal and professional growth on her deployment while also visualizing her role in the greater mission.

“I know I made a difference. Even though it might not seem that my day-to-day operations had an impact, it did have one on the overall mission we’re trying to complete,” added Garcia. “It’s definitely made me a better and stronger person being out here.”