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One Airman's trash is another one's...
Senior Airman Matthew Harrison, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron force protection, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Richards, 332nd ECES force protection supervisor, sort through trash at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Dec. 12, 2011. Harrison and Richards, both deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, are part of "Oscar Team" whose job requires them to sort through discarded items looking for improperly disposed of sensitive materials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Paul Mann)
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One Airman's trash is another one's...

Posted 12/24/2011   Updated 1/10/2012 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Paul Mann
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/24/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Packing up to move, whether it's from one house to another, or from one dorm room to another, forces you to throw out what might be considered surplus items. However, in a deployed environment there are very few surplus items.

Enter the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Force Protection "Oscar Team." This group of Airmen has the daunting task of sorting through everything that others consider unneeded and what most would consider garbage.

Oscar Team, which got its start at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, continues its work at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia as part of 332nd ECES Force Protection. The program was originally developed to collect and recover improperly disposed of information that falls into four specific categories: classified information, Privacy Act, For Official Use Only and items considered contraband.

The team does not sift through the personal belongings of Airmen, but it does go through their discarded trash. Oscar Team looks for printed e-mails, sensitive information, address labels, deployment orders and uniform items. These items cannot be simply thrown away; they must all be properly disposed of by either shredding or burning.

Working closely with Intel and the Office of Special Investigations, Oscar Team personnel help determine the sensitivity of the collected items. If the items are determined to be sensitive, further investigating is done to ensure operations security is undamaged.

"We try to leave as small of a footprint as possible," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Richards, 332nd ECES force protection supervisor. "So when you have address after address coming through, you have to make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."

Most of what the team finds is simply garbage, but occasionally there are items that can be recycled and reused. In a hurry to pack, or simply because they were unaware of the proper procedures, some Airmen throw out usable uniform items. When Oscar Team finds uniform items, they salvage them in the "Airmen's Attic", knowing they might find a new home.

Recovered uniform items, if still serviceable, are properly sanitized and then thoroughly laundered. They are then donated to the 332nd AEW Airmen's Attic.

Recently opened, the Airmen's Attic was created and is operated by volunteers from the 332nd AEW 5/6 Council. The Attic takes usable uniforms, shoes, boots and other personal care items, and puts them into the hands of Airmen who might be looking for a few extra T-shirts, socks or spare pair of tennis shoes -- many of which have been found by Oscar Team.

Recognizing a need, the Airmen's Attic also takes donated goods from care packages, brand new merchandise which would otherwise wind up in trash collection bins. Additionally, the 5/6 Council, in cooperation with the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, has set up donation bins in several of the unit's dormitories and laundry facilities.

On the first day of operations, Dec. 11, 2011, the Airmen's Attic had a steady flow of Tuskegee Airmen looking for that scarf, pair of socks or winter cap to replace ones they'd lost, or a bottle of shampoo to replenish the one that just ran out.

With integrity and attention to detail, Oscar Team makes sure sensitive materials from the Airmen assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing do not fall into the wrong hands. Through volunteerism and service before self, the Airmen's Attic helps Airmen assigned to the 332nd AEW take care of one another.

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