Incirlik Innovation: Deployed Airman helps get more bang for the buck

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's note: This is the first article in a series designed to highlight innovative ideas, programs and actions that have or can save the Air Force money as well as improve mission readiness.

Both birds and aircraft in flight are a wonderful thing -- except when their paths cross. Bird strikes are one of the leading causes of aircraft mishaps around the world, which is why Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard programs are established.

BASH programs often include the use of "BASH cannons," which are propane gas-powered devices that produce a large "bang" when triggered. These noise-making cannons play an integral part of keeping the airfields, including the one at Incirlik Air Base, functional and mission ready. However, there was one slight problem for Incirlik AB - the cannons didn't work.

That all changed when one Airman deployed to Incirlik AB used his extensive skillset that reaches far beyond his Air Force career to repair the wildlife deterrent and saved the 39th Air Base Wing approximately $105,000.

In addition to performing his mission-critical duties here at Incirlik AB, Maj. Donald Mentch, 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron commander, donated more than 100 hours of off-duty time and his expertise in leading Airmen from more than 10 units on base in repairing all 20 cannons, enabling them to serve their purpose of keeping the airfield bird population to a minimum.

With a Bachelors of Science in aeronautical engineering, Master of Science in aerospace engineering, and a doctorate in electrical engineering, Mentch felt it was his obligation to offer his skills to fix the broken cannons.

"If there is something on base that isn't working right, someone needs to voice that," said Mentch. "People who know how to fix it will answer."

The repairs have given back one of the primary wildlife mitigation tools to the airfield management team here.

Anytime we can utilize another tool in our war against airfield wildlife is a positive thing, said Tech. Sgt. Dustin Troyer, 39th Operations Squadron deputy airfield manager. With the BASH cannons operational, we can now send percussion blasts anywhere on the airfield with the click of a button.

"When the airfield is an uncertain and uncomfortable environment for birds and wildlife, we've done our job," continued Troyer "The only thing we want flying on or off our airfield is our aircraft."

Mentch's innovative contributions to Incirlik Air Base were recognized by the 39th Air Base Wing commander, Col. Craig Wills, who presented a commander's coin to the deployed Airman and named him as one of the "Pick of the 'Liks," which is a weekly tool of recognition for excellent Airmen on base. His assistance with the BASH program will be remembered and appreciated long after he returns to his home station.

"Maj. Mentch's actions epitomize the kind of innovation the Air Force needs, especially right now," said Col. Brent Bigger, 39th Air Base Wing vice commander. "Not only did he save money, there's no doubt the cannons he repaired make our airfield safer daily."