WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - A Wiggins man said he has a whole new appreciation for his country and his job after he volunteered to work in Afghanistan for four months this Summer. He was tasked with protecting soldiers and civilians at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. And he wasn't fighting Taliban, instead he was protecting them against another threat--wildlife.
"I never served the military, but it was my chance to help the way I look at it," Scott Alls said. Alls has worked in the wildlife industry all his life. As a Wildlife Biologist for the USDA part of his job is dealing with nuisance wildlife calls.
When he learned the USDA was working with the Air Force in the Bird Air Strike Program, he said he got a golden opportunity to volunteer at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan minimizing the risk to human health and safety by chasing away thousands of nuisance birds.
"We used pyrotechnics to frighten them away. Typically when birds see the aircraft is coming, they're not able to judge the speed of the aircraft or a lot a times the aircraft will be below them. But they'll dive into the plane," Alls said.
Once they hit the plane or get lodged in the engine Alls said they cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, stall cargo from getting to ground troops or cause a plane crash like the one that happened in the Hudson River. Depending on the bird, Alls said it takes five to 10 minutes to chase them off. He also said that Bagram Airfield had one of the worst cases of bird strikes.
"The most dangerous point in a planes trip is the take off and that's when most bird strikes occur," he said.
During his time on the airfield Alls witnessed the 747 cargo plane crash that killed seven American civilians. When Taliban threats were high he was told to wear body army. The constant stress of Alls being in that environment was worth it for him.
"The stuff we take for granted here at home or what we see here as important is not that big when the guys over there are working day to day trying to stay alive," he said.
After dispersing an estimated 76,000 nuisance birds away from the Bagram Airfield, Alls said he's proud he helped save soldiers and civilians lives by clearing the air space.