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Protecting the environment while projecting Airpower

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United States Department of Agriculture biological science technician and K-9 handler Emily Selberg and K-9, Toby, inspect cargo at the Tinian International Airport, Tinian, July 21, 2021. Selberg and Toby have worked alongside service members throughout Pacific Iron 2021 ensuring aircraft and cargo arriving to Tinian are free from potential invasive species as the ecosystem on Tinian boasts vibrant plant and some animal life found nowhere else on Earth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

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U.S. Air Force Airmen disconnect fuel hoses taking care to ensure no excess fuel spills onto the ground at Tinian International Airport, Tinian, during Pacific Iron 2021, July 27, 2021. Environmental safety is a top priority for Airmen during PacIron 21. Pacific Iron 2021 is a Pacific Air Forces dynamic force employment operation to project forces into USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility in support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy which called on the military to be a more lethal, adaptive, and resilient force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

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United States Department of Agriculture biological science technician and K-9 handler Emily Selberg and K-9, Toby, inspect cargo , at the Tinian International Airport, Tinian, July 27, 2021. Selberg and Toby have worked alongside service members daily during Pacific Iron 2021 to ensure aircraft and cargo arriving to Tinian are free from potential invasive species. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

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U.S. service members participating in Operation Pacific Iron 21 receive a briefing regarding environmental hazards that pose a threat to the ecosystem on Tinian, July 19, 2021. Two of the largest threats to the plant and animal life are invasive species such as the brown tree snake and rhinoceros beetle. Approximately 800 Airmen and 35 aircraft are participating in Pacific Air Forces’ dynamic force employment operation July 11 to Aug. 8, 2021, in Guam and Tinian to project forces into the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility in support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, calling on the military to be a more lethal, adaptive and resilient force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands --

U.S. service members participating in Operation Pacific Iron 21 on Tinian are making sure that protecting the environment is a priority while projecting airpower.

The military members have spent the past week working side-by-side with representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture and local officials in order to safely operate.

"It's critical we work with the military to preserve our environment," said Juanita Mendiola, 18th Tinian Municipal Council secretary. "This island is my identity, it's who I am. I have lived on Tinian most of my life. We have asked the military to work with us to ensure our environment is safe for everyone while they are here training."

The ecosystem on Tinian boasts vibrant plant and some animal life found nowhere else on Earth.

"I think my role here is important to ensure the environment is safe from invasive species," said Emily Selberg, USDA biological science technician and K-9 handler. "I'm here with my K-9, Toby, to ensure no snakes, specifically brown tree snakes, arrive on Tinian. These snakes can heavily and negatively impact the local environment and more specifically the local bird population."

Tinian has no native snakes and is home to the Tinian Monarch, a small bird found nowhere else in the world.

"Besides, myself and Toby, there are snake traps all along the fence line of the airport to ensure safety," said Selberg. "Along with snakes, if a rhinoceros beetle was to come to Tinian, it would be really bad for the palm trees here. Because of that, there are also beetle traps along the airport fence line that have a pheromone in them that the beetles are attracted to."

Selberg and Toby work daily inspecting cargo and aircraft arriving to support Pacific Iron.

"Toby was trained in the United States to locate snakes with his amazing sense of smell," said Selberg. "I have been taking him all around when aircraft arrive so he can help me check for any unwanted species. We have been thoroughly checking the cargo of every aircraft that lands and I have been checking the landing gear of jets as that's where the snakes like to be."

Tinian is a critical location for military operations and service members understand an important part of military readiness is environmental protection.

"Protecting the environment is vital for us out here," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Darren Albrecht, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel operations supervisor. It's basically Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants 101...don't spill a drop. We have been focusing on conducting our operations safely and in coordination with the USDA and local representatives here. We understand the importance of taking care of the environment and follow the guidelines to the letter."

Airmen deployed for Pacific Iron are honing their Multi-capable Airmen skills to include being good environmental stewards.

"Tinian is such a unique natural habitat," said Albrecht. "We want to make sure we do everything possible to ensure we have zero negative impact on the environment here while executing our mission as effectively as possible."

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