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919th Medical professionals on the front lines

Four medical workers wearing personal protective equipment wave.

Katie Anderson, an education coordinator for a hospital near Lynchburg, Virginia, poses with her fellow public health workers wearing their personal protective equipment. Anderson is also an Air Force Reserve major who runs the immunizations section of the 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron (Courtesy photo)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Several 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron members are putting their extensive training with the Air Force Reserve to good use by supporting community hospitals and clinics around the country. The experience gained from participating in demanding exercises and deployments has prepared them for a wide range of scenarios while working in their civilian capacities on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Katie Anderson, both an education coordinator for a Virginia hospital and an Air Force Reserve major who runs the 919th SOMDS immunizations section. “We have not seen a mass influx of COVID cases and hope that we truly have ‘flattened the curve,’ but we wait with anticipation every day to see if we will have a spike.”

Anderson coordinates her hospital’s policy in response to the pandemic. She ensures staff are properly trained to deal with the virus and that they have the personal protective equipment they need. Anderson also keeps track of constantly-shifting supply lines to make sure she can order PPE the hospital needs.

Along with these additional tasks, her role at the hospital is also clinical. She frequently heads out of her office, throws on her PPE, and assists her department when it gets busy.

“The emergency department is the frontline of healthcare,” said Anderson. “You never know what is going to walk through the door.”

While Anderson works to help those in the Northeast, another Citizen Air Commando from the 919th SOMDS works to help his local Florida community.  Lt. Col. John Chaney, a flight surgeon for the 919th SOMDS, works as a pulmonary critical care physician at a medical treatment center in Fort Walton Beach, where he is directly treating COVID-19 patients.

“We care for the sickest of the sick coming into the hospital, which unfortunately includes many patients with COVID-19 who are in respiratory failure,” said Chaney.

Chaney is the lead intensivist, a physician specialized in critical care, among his team of pulmonologists in the intensive care unit at his hospital. When he’s not treating patients in the intensive care unit, he is treating outpatients with chronic lung conditions.

As many 919th SOMDS Citizen Air Commandos do their part to help communities during this pandemic, they also support each other.

“When I say the 919th is family, I mean it,” said Anderson. “They have all checked in on us, sent us masks, and loaded us up on food that we can only get in Florida.”

Members of the 919th SOMDS have opportunities to support the military community during the pandemic as well. Citizen Air Commandos bring civilian experience to their military positions which often that benefit the mission.

“I was able to spend a week on status at Eglin working hand in hand with the Eglin team,” said Chaney. “I used my experience in intensive care medicine to help the Eglin doctors and staff prepare for the crisis.”

As 919th SOMDS members work diligently to provide care, some say they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I absolutely see hope for the future,” said Anderson. “This is a season that will stretch us and grow us. It is teaching us to live for today.”

Anderson and Chaney continue to serve their communities in the fight against COVID-19, along with many other 919th SOMDS members.

If you want to learn more about how the 919th Special Operations Wing is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, see the 919th SOW Facebook page or check out the “news” section of our website at https://www.919sow.afrc.af.mil/