TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 60th Aerospace Medicine Squadron has some unusual capabilities. Our Aerospace Operational Physiology and Training team is unique to Travis.
The AOPT team is made up of one officer aerospace physiologist and one enlisted technician whose primary mission is providing refresher physiology training to eight local flying squadrons and other West Coast units. Until recently, aircrew members would travel to a base with an altitude chamber to refresh their training on the emergency procedures if they were exposed to a reduced-oxygen atmosphere while flying a mission at high altitude. During the past fifteen months, this team established its Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device training program as the busiest program in Air Mobility Command.
The ROBD allows the aerospace physiologist to change the concentration of oxygen in the air that the aircrew member is breathing while the crew member performs common tasks in an aircraft simulator. The goal is to have the aircrew member recognize signs of reduced oxygen and demonstrate the proper emergency procedures to perform and establish their emergency supply of 100 percent oxygen.
For passengers on a commercial airliner, this is taken care of by the crew when the yellow masks drop down to provide oxygen for the passengers, but it is important for crew to know how to recognize an emergency and the proper steps to take to safely respond to the situation.
In addition to the primary mission, AOPT provides useful training for many work centers across the base. Aerospace physiologists are experts with fatigue and sleep management tools that are particularly useful to shift workers, or to supervisors who develop shiftwork schedules.
For example, our physiologist has been helpful at David Grant Medical Center in briefing nurses in training when they first arrive at the medical center on techniques they can use minimizing the impact of fatigue on their job performance during shiftwork. Additionally, they provide one-on-one mentoring for individuals having difficulty making adjustments to various shifts. These particular fatigue countermeasures are also useful to personnel who are traveling across many time zones in alleviating jet lag.
The physiologists are familiar with human factors analysis in aircraft and ground safety investigations, sorting out human factors that may have played a role in an accident or injury. For example, was a driver distracted by equipment in their vehicle just prior to a minor accident?
In the short time they have been on base, the team has helped informally with safety investigations around base and have been heavily involved with the patient safety program at the medical center. In addition to helping the hospital eliminate potential slip and fall hazards, the team serves as subject matter experts in conducting in-depth reviews with the medical center safety staff.
Capt Irena Farlik serves as the aerospace physiologist at Travis AFB. She is available to brief at commander’s calls and safety briefings. She also is able to work with supervisors in work centers across the base to help reduce the impact of fatigue, distractions or other environmental stressors. The aerospace physiology technician is Master Sgt. Keith Ravenel and the team is located in Bldg. 50 (not the medical center). They can be reached by phone at 424-2870 or 424-4724.