Addressing the old note

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

History tells many tales of legendary perseverance and dogged determination, yet an old note once left on a tree branch shows an empathetic glimpse into an annoyance shared across time between the denizens of North Dakota and a “Corps of Discovery” immortalized in U.S. history.

“The torment of those Missquetors and the Sufficety of Buffalow meat to dry… induce me to determine to proceed on to a more eligible Spot on the Missouri below at which place the Musquetors will be less troublesome and Buffalow more plenty,” wrote Capt. Meriwether Lewis to his compatriot William Clark on Aug. 4, 1806, at the Missouri – Yellowstone Confluence where the rivers meet.

Over two centuries later the descendants of those mosquitos are still buzzing around the adventurers’ memorials and pestering the local population. But in this day and age, the Williams County Vector Control District enlists the help of the 910th Airlift Wing, based out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, to control the historically agreed upon and potentially dangerous tormentors of North Dakota.

“It’s a very positive thing for the community,” said Devan Leo, the Williams County Vector Control District operations supervisor. “They really enjoy seeing the Air Force out here, seeing the big planes and knowing that they are important to the Air Force, the military, or whoever, just the fact that we would be thought of here in this community to be taken care of.”

The 910th AW maintains the Department of Defense’s only large area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability to eliminate disease-carrying insects and pest insects. From May 28 – June 7, 2024, Reserve Citizen Airmen from Youngstown ARS and a 910th AW aerial spray modified C-130H Hercules aircraft equipped with a modular aerial spray system operated out of the Williston Basin International Airport to conduct mosquito larval control operations with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved product.

“By and large this is a working community, and the people here work hard every day whether they are trucking, farming or working in the oil field they’re outside in the environment for the most part,” said Leo. “We’re never going to get every mosquito, but the main point is to keep people comfortable at the very most, and because mosquitos are a vectoring organism we have to keep on top of it anyway.”

Visible via the Cut Bluff Overlook where Lewis and Clark once stood, the unit treated 4,716 acres of the Missouri River wetlands south of Williston where the local populace and travelers hike and fish on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer lands open to the public. The wetlands provide ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos capable of hosting massive scourges of mosquitos in high flood years.

“The volume of application that the Air Force can provide, especially early on in the season, is really going to help taper down mosquito populations,” said Leo. “Its a major benefit for us to have the Air Force do their application for us each year.”

The Williston mission is one of many aerial spray missions conducted across North Dakota on an annual basis, providing real-world training to the Air Force’s only aerial spray-qualified aircrews and system maintainers while simultaneously benefiting the comfort of local communities and lowering the risk of potential mosquito-borne diseases.

“This mission is unique because most of our missions target adult mosquitoes over populated areas in the evening with night vision goggles but here we target the larval mosquitoes during the day over the wetlands before they emerge, controlling the problem at its source,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Remmers, a medical entomologist with the 757th Airlift Squadron.

In the end, almost everyone who has dealt with mosquitoes, even just a few, can probably imagine why the distinguished explorer Capt. Lewis didn’t want to wait for Clark where they’d originally planned back in an era where the rivers were high, the land mostly untouched by man and no Air Force in the sky lending the denizens a helping hand.