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Spectometry technicianElectron MircroscopePrecision Measurements








TOD to shut down after rich history

By Lt. Col. Kenneth Denbleyker
Assistant to the Commander, TOD
McClellan Air Force Base, Calif.

After almost 50 years of superior service, the Technical noteworthy considering that most experts had predicted that the USSRís first atomic test would not occur until the 1951-53 time frame.

In 1950, a permanent extension of the 1009th SWS, called the Western Field Office, was created at McClellan, marking the beginning of TOD as an Air Force unit. With the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the 1155th Technical Operations Squadron (renamed from the Western Field Office in 1960) reached its peak strength of 1,500 personnel.

By the late 1970s, technology allowed redundant systems to be phased out, and the squadronís manpower reached a level of a little more than 400. However, because of the increased complexity and importance of the McClellan-based mission, the Air Force upgraded the unit to a named division in 1984, with its present designation, Technical Operations Division.

The division consists of an analytical laboratory, a logistics depot, and a mission support unit. The analytical laboratory, McClellan Central Laboratory, has really been four distinct laboratories running three national programs supporting nuclear treaty monitoring and research and development of systems to detect evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

The Applied Physics Laboratory is responsible for analysis of particulate matter using mass spectrometers, optical and electron microscopy, and other microanalytical techniques.

An electron microprobe is used to take "photographs" of particles for topographical information and to perform elemental analysis. Using this instrument, technicians can identify particles one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

Subsequent analysis is performed on a Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer to determine the isotopic composition. Machine alignment and operating parameters are critical and require operators to have extensive technical knowledge and dedication.

The Gas Analysis Laboratory is responsible for the separation, purification, and quantification of gases from air samples which are collected by ground samplers.

A gas chromatograph is used to extract a small amount of an air sample to determine its contents. Once this sample is verified, the Microprocessor Automated Chromatographic System is used to separate the key components, which are then loaded into the apparatus to accurately measure their volume and radioactivity.

The Applied Chemistry Laboratory has recently transferred its mission to Los Alamos National Laboratory and the British Oxygen Corporation.

Technicians at LANL are now responsible for processing filter paper samples from ground samplers, as well as airborne filters on WC-135 aircraft, both of which collect nuclear debris released during foreign nuclear weapons tests. The filters are measured for radioactivity on a gamma spectrometer, which can indicate that a nuclear test has occurred. BOC operators process gaseous debris from nuclear weapons tests.

The logistics depot engineers sustain USAEDS equipment worldwide. Their responsibilities include systems and item management to ensure proper levels of systems and spares are available at a momentís notice. The Engineering and Maintenance Division provides a depot-level repair facility for the fieldís air and particle samplers, and equipment used on the WC-135 aircraft. They also maintain McClellan Central Laboratoryís analytical equipment. In 1996, TODís depot maintainers won the Air Forceís Outstanding Small Depot of the Year Award.

TODís Supply serves not only TOD, but all of AFTACís detachments worldwide. These folks handle everything from managing supply contracts to stocking over 9000 equipment items valued at more than $50 million. "A lot of our orders are critical," says Master Sgt. Mike Baker, deputy chief of Supply. "The detachments depend solely on us since they generally arenít supported by a local Air Force base." TOD won an Air Force-level Supply Effectiveness Award and secured two Major Command-level awards in 1996 and 1997.

The Mission Resources and Systems Directorate provides computer and communication services, as well as contracting, budget, information management, security, and facilities management. They maintain not only a Local Area Network, but also a large mainframe critical to supplying mission data to TOD customers.

TODís people possess a wide range of technical expertise. Many hold graduate degrees in chemistry, physics, nuclear engineering, computer science, and electronics engineering. Complementing this impressive scientific capability is an experienced and talented operational force supported by a skilled, hand-picked group of technicians. The division is a recipient of eight Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards between 1961 and 1982 and six Air Force Organizational Excellence Awards between 1984 and 1998.

Because of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decision to close McClellan, TODís mission will transition by outsourcing laboratory operations to the commercial sector and other government laboratories, and by transferring logistics operations to Patrick Air Force Base and Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Although TOD will be officially inactivated as an Air Force unit Sept. 30, an inactivation ceremony is planned for April 9 at 9 a.m. in the Coast Guard Hangar, McClellan AFB. The ceremony will be followed by an open house at Building 1080. The theme for the scheduled events will be "A Heritage Remembered," and will focus on the history of the unit and those who served proudly. Although TOD is inactivating, its missions will be carried on by AFTAC, other Air Force and government organizations, and contractors.