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Fighting the invisible enemy

Lt. Col. Jen Wylie, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron medical services director and Staff Sgt. Erich Miller, 919th SOMDS operational medical technician, attend a virtual morning meeting at Duke Field, Fla., April 13, 2020.

Lt. Col. Jen Wylie, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron medical services director and Staff Sgt. Erich Miller, 919th SOMDS operational medical technician, attend a virtual morning meeting at Duke Field, Fla., April 13, 2020. Medical personnel at the 919th SOMDS screen personnel before they enter the building, wear masks, and have reduced in-person appointments to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and keep Citizen Air Commandos safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Nicole King)

Capt. Katie Saunders, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron, chief of public health, attends a virtual morning meeting at Duke Field, Fla., April 13, 2020.

Capt. Katie Saunders, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron, chief of public health, attends a virtual morning meeting at Duke Field, Fla., April 13, 2020. Medical personnel at the 919th SOMDS screen personnel before they enter the building, wear masks, and have reduced in-person appointments to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and keep Citizen Air Commandos safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Nicole King)

A group of medical personnel pose in front of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs sign, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Senior Master Sgt. Michele Goodwin, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron aerospace medicine superintendent, poses with a group of medical personnel in front of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs sign, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Goodwin works as a registered nurse in her civilian capacity. (Courtesy photo)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Medical professionals are dealing with a surge in patients needed treatment, the general public is dawning face masks and some states are on lockdown. In the wake of changes implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19, a small yet highly capable Reserve Medical Unit in the Florida panhandle is making significant contributions in the fight against the pandemic.

Airmen in the 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron are taking steps to ensure the full-time, critical missions can continue in spite of the virus. Collaborative tools such as teleconferencing software allow members to work from home, disinfection of surfaces is taking place for those still working at Duke Field, and alternating schedules have been implemented to limit contact between Citizen Air Commandos.

The 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron leadership brought on a full-time team of public health professionals to contact-trace, coordinate with local health authorities and keep tabs on 919th Special Operations Wing Airmen who have traveled to high-risk areas. In addition, the medical team is sharing information with 919th SOW leadership to help them make informed decisions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“[The 919th SOMDS] as a whole is working together to support the local community’s medical requirements, ensuring medical readiness of deployers and attempting to do everything possible to limit the overall impact this will have to the medical readiness of the wing,” said Lt. Col. Jenny Wylie, 919th SOMDS medical services director. “Further, we are reaching out to our Airmen to monitor how they and their families are weathering some of the negative impacts of this pandemic.”

Some 919th SOMDS Citizen Air Commandos are working in their civilian capacities on the front lines of this pandemic. The unit has pulmonologists, emergency room doctors and other public health professionals around the country, many of whom are all confronting the novel coronavirus in various forms.

“One of our members is a registered nurse coordinating the COVID response in a large civilian ER,” said Wylie. “We also have several civilian ER doctors on the frontlines diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients throughout the country.”

While 919th SOMDS Citizen Air Commandos are taking extensive actions to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, they are also continuing to take care of Airmen’s routine medical readiness requirements. Medical personnel screen patients and ensure compliance with the directive for everyone to wear masks when social distancing is not possible. Airmen can only make in-person appointments for mission essential services.

“Leadership has been very supportive in ensuring implementation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Defense guidelines,” said Wylie. “Above all, they have emphasized that we must take care of our Airmen and ensure the wellbeing of their families.”

As coronavirus cases in Florida surpass 30,000, Airmen and community members are pulling together to keep the mission going, with some even making masks for others in their spare time.

“It has been amazing to watch members in our communities step up to take care of those around them,” said Wylie. “Americans are very resilient. We will overcome these challenges. Though the overall recovery may be long, I have no doubt we will come out stronger in the end and apply all lessons learned to better our future.”

For up-to-date information on how the 919th SOW is responding to COVID-19, visit the 919th Special Operations Wing Facebook page, download the 919th SOW mobile app, or check out the “news” section at https://www.919sow.afrc.af.mil