REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Every Soldier, civilian or contractor working in or around radioactive materials are required to wear radiation dosimeters that record the amount of potentially harmful exposure each individual receives. It is William Harris’ job to ensure the Army keeps track of these exposures so no one person exceeds the recommended annual limits of radiation exposure.
Harris is Chief of the U.S. Army Dosimetry Center, part of the U.S. Army TMDE (Test, Measurement, Diagnostic Equipment) Activity (USATA) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Not only are he and his team responsible for maintaining all dosimetry-related records, more than 14 million records dating back to 1954, the center also provides radiation dosimeters to emergency response force personnel that would deploy to following a nuclear or radiological event.
“If Army personnel need to deploy to a radiological ‘hot spot,’ we would issue dosimeters used to track their exposure. These dosimeters would be returned to our center for analysis at the conclusion of the deployment,” said Harris. “This would ensure that these personnel are provided a permanently archived record of exposure to ionizing radiation by our center.”
For more than 32 years, Harris has developed, fielded and tracked radiation detection devices that help keep our forces safe in the event of a nuclear disaster.
“Our center worked with multiple stakeholders to develop and field two different battlefield dosimetry systems used by emergency response force personnel that would deploy in response to a nuclear or radiological event like the Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, nuclear disaster in 2011,” Harris said. “I am very proud to have contributed in the development and fielding of these vital battlefield dosimeters.”
Harris, an Alabama native, is board certified in the comprehensive practice of health physics by the American Board of Health Physics and is recognized as a Certified Health Physicist (CHP) – one of only four CHPs in the state of Alabama. He also works on the Health Physics Society’s (HPS) Standards Committee to develop National Radiation Standards and holds the patents on two Thermoluminescent Readers.
Harris’ dedication to radiological safety was recently recognized with his selection as a Health Physics Society Fellow. This award is bestowed to members of the Society in recognition of their significant administrative, educational, and/or scientific contributions to the profession of health physics.
Additionally, the HPS Military Health Physics Section selected Harris for the 2020 Superior Civilian Service Award. This award acknowledges outstanding contributions to the profession of health physics while serving as a senior civil servant supporting the Department of Defense and service to the general public that significantly contributes to the relationship between the military and the health physics profession.
According to USATA’s Executive Director, Richard Parker, Harris embodies all the traits of a dedicated, professional public servant.
“Bill’s devotion to the health and safety of the emergency responders during nuclear disasters is most commendable,” said Parker. “The recognition from his peers across the health physics community speaks volumes to his dedication and commitment to the Army and our Nation. He and the entire Dosimetry Center team provide critical support to Soldiers and civilians that improves Army readiness every day.”