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“We do some specialized flying mixed with a lot of science,” noted Maj. Phil Townsend, the chief of aerial spray with the 757th Airlift Squadron at Youngstown ARS, Ohio. “Our mission is to provide a large-area spray capability to control disease-carrying insects, eradicate undesirable plants, or disperse oil spills. And we are getting busier every year.”
Assigned to Air Force Reserve Command’s 910th Airlift Wing, the 757th AS is the only large-area, fixed-wing aerial spray unit in the US Department of Defense. Aircrews, maintainers, and a couple of the unit’s six entomologists—almost half of the insect specialists in the US Air Force—deploy more than twenty-five times a year for extended operations at locations ranging from southern Florida to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and from Parris Island, South Carolina, to Hill AFB, Utah.
Flying C-130Hs equipped with palletized Modular Aerial Spray System, or MASS, units, 757th AS crews spray thousands of acres every spring, summer, and fall. “A C-130 can spray up to 150,000 acres per day,” noted Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Breidenbaugh, who heads the entomology department at Youngstown. “Some places, a spray-equipped Hercules is literally the only way to manage invasive plants or to apply pesticide.”
C-130Hs from the Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing are headed to Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey. The unit has a special aerial spraying capability that is going to be put to use to help with minimizing the impact of the brutal storm's aftermath. The aircraft and their crews are based out of Youngstown, Ohio and they are the only aerial spraying capable unit in the Air Force—a function few probably even realize the Pentagon has in its portfolio.