First ever use of innovative mobile far UV light during IRT Hoosier Care

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber Anderson
  • 181st Intelligence Wing

Service members are utilizing the latest in mobile sanitation technology, providing a safe environment for service members and the community during an Innovative Training Readiness mission in Terre Haute, Indiana.

IRT Hoosier Care is a unique mission for the Department of Defense because of its innovative nature. For the first time in an operational deployment, service members are employing a mobile shared environment virus protection technology using far-ultraviolet light sanitation. The lights eliminate pathogens in the air, and they are moderately effective at eliminating pathogens on surfaces and decreasing the airborne transmission of diseases from cold, flu or COVID-19.

The concept was first tested during the height of COVID-19 when the 189th Airlift Wing undertook innovative efforts to keep airmen safe.

“We consulted with professionals from Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and others to ensure what we were doing was safe,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Fitzpatrick, the chief of plans and innovation at the 189th AW. “We were awarded $1 million to integrate [the lights] into the 189th, and last year we were awarded another $1 million to make the sustainment cost much lower by re-engineering them and upgrading the features.”

According to Fitzpatrick, the 189th AW was able to reduce cost by 85% by adapting the light to accept replacement bulbs. This garnered national attention and interest from the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy, United States Strategic Command and Air Combat Command.

Those initial innovations ultimately lead to additional innovations during IRT Hoosier Care.

According to Fitzpatrick, innovative efforts led to the procurement of portable units like those in operation during IRT Hoosier Care. As a result, IRT Hoosier Care has employed four of the mobile light units.

Aside from the normal practices of disinfecting tools, equipment and work areas and practicing good hygiene, the lights continuously sanitize work areas to provide a safer environment for service members and their patients.

Indeed, IRT Hoosier Care embodies the true potential of IRT missions thanks in part to the use of innovative technologies like the lights.

“It’s never been used on an IRT, and it’s just genius,” said Air Force Master Sgt. James Hammock, the mission non-commissioned officer-in-charge for IRT Hoosier Care and member of the 181st Intelligence Wing. “You almost always have people get cross-contamination with things like the common cold. So far, no one’s been ill.”

The difference made by the innovative technology could be immense for contingency missions like IRT Hoosier Care.

“One reason we have [the lights] is to protect our providers,” said Hammock. “We only have so many. If a provider goes down, you potentially lose the ability to care for 50 people.”

To be sure, IRT Hoosier Care can serve as a proving ground for use of the technology for future contingency or deployed operations.

“I’m excited about it,” said Hammock. “I hope IRT Hoosier Care can be a catalyst or jumping point – especially if we have zero illnesses or sick-calls.”

Led by the 181st Intelligence Wing, IRT Hoosier Care is a training mission that provides real-world, contingency training for military personnel and no-cost healthcare to the local community.