Blue Tigers hunt at dusk

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Gold glitters upon the South Carolina shore as dusk heeds a blue tiger's roar.

Paying homage to the rare, if not mythical, beast, the 757th Airlift Squadron preyed upon the salt marsh mosquitoes of Joint Base Charleston on May 16, 2023.

Based at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, the 910th Airlift Wing maintains the Department of Defense’s only large area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability to eliminate disease-carrying insects, pest insects and undesirable or invasive vegetation and disperse oil spills in large bodies of water.

Operating an aerial spray-modified C-130H Hercules aircraft, the 757th aircrew, aka "Blue Tigers", are some of the only Reserve Citizen Airmen qualified to fly agile sorties at 300 feet altitude using night vision goggles.

"Many mosquito species start biting and are highly active at dusk and into the night," said Capt. Deanna Scheff, a medical entomologist with the 757th AS. "So we spray in that window of time to have the greatest impact on mosquitoes, with a product so microscopic that if we didn't fly low it'd evaporate before hitting its mark."

The Environmental Protection Agency-approved product is atomized during application and applied at a rate roughly equaling a shotgun shell's worth (about 1 ounce) or less per acre to counter the spread of insect-borne diseases and/or profuse and nuisance biters. Youngstown ARS's newly acquired rotary nozzle innovation optimizes the precision and impact of the hunt.

“More deaths have been caused by diseases spread via insects or arthropods than any war,” said Scheff. “In fact, diseases have historically been one of the top killers during war, making disease-vectoring insects just as deadly as bullets and artillery, given the chance.”

As the only unit biting the bugs back, some theorize that the 757th AS, be it unorthodox and incalculable, has one of the highest enemy kill counts in military history, at least counting pest insects. At the same time, the unit sports a pristine safety record due to the EPA-approved product’s calculated use.

"If you painted our aircraft completely white then added a small gray dot for each mosquito, you'd never know the difference in color from what they look now," said Scheff. “The impact of our mission can neither be seen nor felt. What we do is preventative and dead mosquitoes can't bite.”

The “Blue Tigers” are permitted to stalk insects at the invitation of DoD installations and their surrounding communities in order to assist with their pest control programs. The unit can also respond to disasters and national emergencies as declared by the President of the United States. Supporting these recurring DoD missions and disaster recovery efforts helps the unit remain mission ready to use its unique capability to protect U.S. troops in potential future conflicts.

The JB Charleston mission marks the second operational use of the 910th AW’s new electronic modular aerial spray system and the first ultra-low volume pesticide mission.