PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- For the first time since the Air Force Technical Applications Center moved into its new headquarters building in 2014, members of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Council toured the U.S. Air Force Radiochemistry Lab on AFTAC’s campus Oct. 16.
The Ciambrone Lab, posthumously named after former AFTAC vice commander Col. Thomas Ciambrone, is the only one of its kind in the U.S. Air Force. The scientists who work in the facility are responsible for identifying radiologic or nuclear debris in support of the U.S. Nuclear Debris Collection and Analysis Program.
The Military Affairs Council is an all-volunteer group of partners from the CBRCC who work together to enhance the quality of life in the local community, with a special emphasis on enlisted members who serve on Florida’s Space Coast.
The MAC held its monthly meeting at AFTAC’s outdoor pavilion and enjoyed pizza provided by MAC member Space Coast Intelligent Solutions. Once MAC chairman Michelle Goldcamp addressed each agenda item and adjourned the council’s business, the attendees were broken up into three groups and escorted into the state-of-the-art facility.
They visited four main operational areas within the lab – sample control, radiochemistry, nuclear measurements and mass spectrometry. In the sample control section, council members were shown how samples are received, screened and prepared for delivery to other areas of the lab. The radiochemistry area offered views of chemical operations and where samples undergo rigorous purification prior to analysis.
From there, the group visited the nuclear measurements lab where a wide variety of sophisticated radiation detection equipment is housed. “This area is designed to detect very low levels of alpha, beta and gamma radiation, which is a key function of the lab’s mission,” said Dave Burns, chief of Laboratory Operations.
During the final portion of the tour, the MAC got a rare view of one of the lab’s thermal ionization mass spectrometers – precision instruments designed to measure nuclear fuel materials, one atom at a time.
After the tour Goldcamp was thrilled with the outcome of the meeting and the unique tour of the lab.
“It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to tour AFTAC with the MAC,” she said. “For me personally, my inner ‘nerd’ was extremely excited to experience and hear about the science being performed there. Absolutely amazing – thank you for hosting us!”
AFTAC leadership is consistently seeking out ways to engage with members of the local community.
“Hosting the MAC seemed like a perfect opportunity network with our partners in Brevard County and to give us a chance to showcase our first-class radiochemistry lab and the people who operate it every day,” said Col. Ralph Bordner, AFTAC vice commander. “We were pleased to have so many members of the council attend the meeting, and from all accounts, it seems like everyone had a great time. We look forward to doing this again in the future.”