GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- Air Force Tech Sgt. Rodney Buntyn brings more than just his knowledge of power production to Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, he also brings 30 years of beekeeping experience.
Buntyn, who has been in the Air National Guard 25 years this June, deployed to JTF Guantanamo with the 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron . When he is not serving the Air National Guard, Buntyn is a student service specialist with the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss.
"We knew the other team before us handled bees," said Lt. Col. David Kennard, 474 ECES commander. "We asked the question of who would like to work with the bees, and Sgt. Buntyn said he does it as a hobby."
Buntyn said he started out working with bees in 1979, when he helped a cousin who kept beehives. Buntyn brought a protective suit, a smoker, and some hive tools in anticipation of working with bees in Guantanamo Bay.
"The unit here before us had caught a hive," Buntyn said. "By the time we got here the hive had died out, but we found some bees in the scrapyard, and we decided to move the bees instead of eradicating them."
Buntyn said the bees are like the base's ever-present iguanas: they're a part of the local ecosystem and help the plant life. Buntyn said that without bees, people wouldn't have food crops, because the bees pollinate them.
"I hate to see people go in and destroy a population of bees," said Kennard. "Buntyn was very methodical when taking this hive, and went through the whole hive until he found the queen."
Buntyn said that even though he wore a protective suit, he still got stung four times while moving a hive from a scrap yard to a safe area by Camp Justice.
"The bees have a structured society that's like the military," Buntyn said. "The worker bees start out at the bottom and work their way up. As they get older their duties change. Their main mission in life is to support their hive and their queen, just like we support our country and the president."
Buntyn says he has four hives back home, and sells the honey they produce. He said one hive can make 10 to 30 gallons of honey in three to four months.
"It's got to be something you like to do," Buntyn said. "It's not an easy job dealing with bees. You have to maintain the hives regularly, and you will get stung."