711th Human Performance Wing
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (June 2008)|
|711th Human Performance Wing|
|Active||March 2008 — present|
|Part of||Air Force Material Command|
|Mr. Thomas Wells|
The wing's primary mission areas are aerospace medicine, science and technology and human systems integration.
Human Effectiveness Directorate
Human Performance Integration Directorate
Controversial Research: In 2011 USAF School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) was tasked to investigate Agent Orange exposure concerns raised by former crewmembers who flew the Fairchild C-123 "Provider" between the years 1972-1982. Tests completed in 1994 by AF Armstrong Laboratories had established the Agent Orange contamination of the Museum of the United States Air Force's C-123 resulting from the warplane's service during the Vietnam War, spraying Agent Orange. Results indicated the aircraft "heavily contaminated on all test surfaces. While the 1994 report was accepted as requiring all personnel entering the aircraft for whatever purpose to first don HAZMAT protection, no record exists of any question being raised by Air Force authorities concerning veterans who'd flown the aircraft in earlier years of their exposure.
The contaminated C-123, famous as "Patches," was decontaminated in 1996 and placed in the Museum of the Air Force Southeast Asia War display.
The multidisciplinary team formed by USAFSAM to investigate the contamination issues concluded in May 2012 that no harmful level of exposure existed for the veterans who'd flown C-123 aircraft. The report (Consultative Letter, AFRL-SA-WP-CL-2012-0052, UC-123 Agent Orange Exposure Assessment, Post-Vietnam [1972-1982]) was released over the signature of the commander, USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. The report was distributed to the Department of Veterans Affairs by the Deputy Surgeon General of the Air Force with his conclusion there was "limited benefit" in informing the concerned veterans, and such notification would only cause to "undue distress."
The USAFSAM Consultative Letter was quickly challenged by expert toxicologists citing several faults. In particular, experts were alarmed with the contrast between the Consultative Letter's dismissal of veterans' exposure to dioxin and the conclusion reached by the Center for Disease / Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The ATSDR finding, written by their Deputy Director, was "I believe aircrews operating in this, and similar, environments were exposed to TCDD." ATSDR also found a greatly increased risk of cancer to veterans who'd flown or maintained these aircraft. Other Federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health/NEIHS and the US Public Health Service reached similar conclusions that C-123 aircrews and maintenance personnel were exposed. Also challenging the Air Force results were Dr. Jeanne Stellman, Professor Emerita of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Dr. Fred Berman of Oregon Health Sciences University, and Dr. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas Medical School, and many of their colleagues. On 29 November 2012, fifteen of these experts submitted their joint letter challenging both the Air Force Consultative Letter and the VA's acceptance of it, to General Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits.
C-123 veterans have continued to present Agent Orange exposure claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs, but without success as the VA's Compensation and Pension Service relies on the finding of the VA's Health Benefits Administration holding C-123 exposure risks to have been minimal, secondary and not harmful to human health.