News>Airman, coalition team ensure health, hygiene of contractors
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Vaughan, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing public health technician observes the storage of freshly baked bread in one of the contractor camps here Sept. 13. Vaughan educates the camp cooks and managers on ways they can improve their health and safety levels. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Russell Martin)
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Vaughan, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing public health technician inspects produce during a spot inspection at a contractor camp here Sept 13. There are more than 500 contractor camps on Kandahar Airfield, some of which have their own kitchen and dining facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Russell Martin)
Upon inspection, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Vaughan, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing public health technician discovers some spoiled potatoes. Vaughan is charged with not only assisting the Kandahar Airfield Commander’s Task Force Inspection Team in ensuring contractor camps keep up with health and safety standards, she is also responsible for inspecting more than 30 commonly used eateries around the KAF. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Russell Martin)
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Vaughan, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing public health technician speaks with the manager of a camp that was inspected recently. She offers directions and advice to the managers to bring their kitchen and dining facilities up to standards. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Russell Martin)
by Master Sgt. Russell Martin
451st Air Expeditionary Wing
9/14/2012 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- With all of the contractor camps on Kandahar, one Airman and her coalition team ensure the workers' living conditions here are held to the highest health and environmental standards.
Kandahar Airfield is home to nearly 30,000 U.S. and coalition forces, government agencies and contractors which live and work in multiple camps within the installation.
Every Thursday, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Vaughan, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing public health technician, with the KAF Commander's Task Force Inspection Team, plan and inspect of one of the many contractor camps on base. The task force is a band of subject matter experts from a variety of specialties; they come from various fields, fire department, ground and environmental safety, legal, medical advisor, contractor management office and the COMKAF Command Sergeant Major. These experts represent the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and NATO contingents on KAF. Once the safety brief is complete the cadre sets out to the designated camp to inspect all the aspects of the area.
Vaughan, deployed from the 375th Aerospace Medical Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., typically performs sanitation inspections in 32 facilities, collects and reports disease non-battle injury data, individual medical readiness reports, record reviews, medical intelligence briefs, and she is also the immunizations point of contact including the seasonal influenza vaccine.
But following one of her many sanitation inspections, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brian Foor, COMKAF medical advisor, asked Vaughan to help support the mission in a new way, and join the Thursday inspection team.
Foor, an orthopedic physician assistant by trade, deployed to KAF in April and thought he had a minor understanding of all the eateries on base. In doing the math and percentages, he discovered that 65 percent of KAF members eat within the regularly inspected dining facilities and the other 35 percent eat from the food vendors on the boardwalk. He felt confident that if any food or health issue would arise, it would be confined to a small portion of the population. However, within a few days of his deployment he received a call from a KAF civilian contractor that said, "I have some really sick people outside of your office."
"The contractor explained there were 'six really sick people and a dozen not so bad,' said Foor.
The commander called the Role 3 hospital who said to bring the people over for evaluation and treatment. As he and the Role 3 staff were unloading the patients from their vehicles, two busses loaded with 40 more sick contractors pulled up alongside also looking for treatment. As it turned out, unbeknownst to Foor, there was an unapproved dining facility within this civilian contractor's camp that had served undercooked chicken and vegetables. The food caused food poisoning. Subsequently, due to this evolution and after meeting Sergeant Vaughan, Foor knew she was the right person to help COMKAF stand up this inspection team and bring these civilian contracted facilities up to par.
There are over 580 civilian coalition contractor camps on KAF that handle the majority of building and manpower to the base. Most have kitchen facilities, dining facilities and employee living quarters. And Foor said Vaughan's knowledge and expertise is paramount to ensuring their conditions are hygienic and safe.
Vaughan admits that some of the inspections really take their toll on her but she understands the cultural relativity of the other nations and how they don't see problems with how they store, prepare their food or clean their facilities. But she also admits, being able to help them to correct areas and meet standards are rewards in themselves.
"The contractors and TCNs work really hard all day, every day," Vaughan said. "I understand that where they're from they don't pay as much attention to some of the things that we do, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't. When we come in they're very nice and if we correct a problem, they typically try to fix it on the spot and with a smile. I think they understand that we're not there to bring them down, but we do want them to be healthy and happy in their environments."
Some camps are chosen at random to be inspected, and some come from employee exit interviews when their employment is terminated. At the exit interview, the employee may at that time say that they "lived in poor overcrowded conditions," or that the contractor had an illegal kitchen dining facility or even pay problems.
The cadre's efforts have had a lasting effect on most of the inspected camps. One camp in particular was in a complete and total health, food and sanitary disarray Foor said.
"We inspected one camp and upon our arrival we could look at the employees and see they were dirty and just unhappy," Foor said. "We walked into the kitchen and the amount of flies was just incredible. They had fly tapes hanging from the ceiling that could not hold another fly, they were totally saturated. We saw uncooked dough for bread that initially we thought had raisins in them but when we looked closer they were flies that had been rolled within the dough waiting to be baked.
"Upon entering the dining facility we thought the tops of their warming table and floor tables were painted black. However, as we approached them we discovered that they were actually covered in flies that took off like a blanket and then circled the room. The employees in the area looked at us like 'this was the norm,'" Foor said.
Without hesitation Vaughan and the team laid down the rules, closed the kitchen and dining facility. They then started to educate and challenge the camp leadership to bring it up to standards and immediately change began Foor said.
'Within three days we returned to re-inspect and they got their camp up to standards, and had done a complete turn-around," Vaughan said. "Then the folks began to take a lot more pride in it. They even built a brand new dining facility themselves within a few weeks. We returned several weeks later and noticed the employees looked better, were eating better, feeling better, and had pride in their camp. It was amazing to see."
These Thursday inspections are only part of the equation for Vaughan. In all, she has 32 sites that she must inspect every month to ensure they fall in line with public health guidelines. If they do not, she will shut them down until they can be remedied, going back every day until it's done.
"I've found kitchens and rooms that are a public health nightmare," Vaughan said. "I've had to close a place down for up to three days while they got their facility in order, but most of them can fix the discrepancies within hours. But that is my favorite part of what I do here. There is nothing like coming back to a facility, a few days after you inspect it, and seeing the necessary changes being made and knowing that the 30,000 members of KAF are being taken care of in a clean, hygienic environment."