In a previous blog post, we took a look at the training of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Health Safeguarding Specialists (PHSS) at The Professional Development Center (PDC). Now, let’s meet some of the faces behind the manuals and microscopes: the 2011 class of Basic Agricultural Safeguarding Training (BAST).
The entry-level APHIS employees who make up BAST 101 are an enthusiastic and geographically diverse group, coming to Frederick, Md., from Worcester, Mass., Honolulu, Hawaii, and everywhere in between. The current crop of “Basties” perform multiple duties on a wide variety of Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) programs, ranging from eradicating the dreaded Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) to conducting pre-departure inspections at ports-of-entry. While their functions are varied, these individuals share a common goal and purpose: to keep the United States safe from invasive pests that threaten our nation’s agriculture and natural resources.
Anthony Bocchino, who works on the Citrus Health Response Program in Phoenix, Ariz., found the Plant Pathology course to be particularly enlightening. “When I return to my duty station, I plan to use what I learned from the plant pathology training to put together a manual for technicians,” Bocchino said. “It’s also helpful to see how the other programs work. Overall, BAST has provided me with a wider perspective on PPQ operations within APHIS.”
Laura Gusukuma-Minuto inspects passenger baggage, cargo, mail and conveyances moving domestically from Hawaii to prevent pests from spreading to other areas of the United States. “What I learned from the Pest Identification courses is very applicable to my job.”
Despite the wide diversity of PPQ duties, Gusukuma-Minuto feels that BAST teaches students common goals. “Although most of my classmates are doing domestic work, it’s all fundamentally the same. We’re all learning how to best interact with the public and other stakeholders to ensure the APHIS mission of protecting American agriculture and natural resources.”
This group of trainees has successfully completed the BAST 101 training. They are now back on the front lines putting their training to use. They know what to look for to protect the US from plant pest and diseases.
But protecting the US isn’t just for the pros… average citizens can play an important role, too. Visit www.HungryPests.com to learn more about invasive species, the damages they cause, and how you can spot and report them.