EGLIN AFB, Fla. (WKRG) — Eglin Air Force Base honored retired Master Sgt. and former task leader by making his second home at the Dynamic Entry and Exit Test Module test center his namesake.
The DEETM lab is crucial in building military readiness by testing shelters and equipment used by all US forces against chemical warfare agents. The center was named after Scott A. Matheson, who died suddenly in February 2021. A longtime employee and crew member at the DEETM lab shared his legacy and the mission with WKRG News 5.
“It’s not directly related to temperature,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Denicola. “It’s more of to test whether or not it protects an austere environment if there were chemicals released. If there was a chemical attack like a vapor chemical attack, it’s just to see if it would protect against that chemical attack.”
What started as a small testing room in the back of the building expanded to a 50x50x50 testing room, equipped with several laboratories. Denicola said the building is one of the largest in the Department of Defense and once full building add-ons are complete it will be the only one of its kind in the D.O.D.
New task leader John Terry said the department itself would not have made it this far without Matheson’s vision.
“It was 2×4’s and plastic, with a little heat plate and through Scott’s work it is turned into this chamber,” said Terry. “This is all Scott Mathieson is doing. He was very skilled at dealing with anyone, like I said, from the lowest ranking airman to the highest ranking general. He was passionate about what we did and why we did it. And what it provides to the men and women out there that we protect them. God forbid we ever need it. We protect them should they get attacked with chemical or biological agents. He was passionate.”
Matheson assembled his own team of contractors and military members to build the department. Terry joined in 2006, and said he has big shoes to fill as Matheson’s replacement.
“It’s Scott, everybody was family to him. From his immediate family to his extended family to his military family to his work family, and he ran it that way,” said Terry. “Nothing was more important than family, and that family extended to every airman, Marine, sailor, soldier out there. Everyone was family, and that’s who he served.”
Denicola and Terry both said this testing and work is more needed now than ever. The testing program performs eight to 10 projects each year. Coming up, the testing crews will do men in stimulant experiments.
“Which will involve taking people who are wearing like chem-bio protective ensembles,” said Denicola. “We’ll put a bunch of sensors on them all over to map out the body. They’ll come in here, they’ll do an operationally relevant exercise, get exposed to our stimulant chemicals. They’ll go ahead and exit and then remove their chem-bio gear and then we’ll take some readings off of those and see what the different exposure levels were.”
“So our world unfortunately is getting busier,” said Terry. “With what’s going on in Ukraine and everywhere else, there’s no more of a need than there is right now, so we’re just continually getting busier and busier and growing.”
Read more about Agile Combat Support and Matheson’s legacy online.