An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 3, 2014.The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. John Bainter)


Commander's update on July UTA and COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Col. Kevin Merrill
  • 919 Special Operations Wing

Citizen Air Commandos
We are preparing for our fourth Unit Training Assembly in July since implementing measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Drill weekend, normally a source of unity, again finds many of our members still teleworking and completing readiness requirements virtually where possible. Unfortunately, the state and our local community has seen an increase in active cases over the last two weeks.

While some Air Force installations have progressed in their recovery to Health Protection Condition Bravo, Eglin Air Force Base and Duke Field remain at HPCON Charlie, which indicates there is still a substantial threat of disease to the base populous. The reality is the risk of catching this disease in the Florida Panhandle is higher now than it has ever been. We are also seeing an increase in new cases on Eglin and Hurlburt that are not associated with increased testing. In short, this means there is more infection in the community. It’s not simply because health care officials are testing more. These new cases are no longer travel related as they were in March, but are now indicative of disease spreading right here in the community. Many of these cases were attributed to employees attending large gatherings, house parties, sharing vape pens and drinking glasses, etc.

Despite our best efforts to mitigate, the surge in positive cases is preventing us from easing restrictions on base and progressing in our efforts to have members return to their work centers. The current trend is also affecting the mission in some workplaces due to employees being placed in isolation and quarantine. We all have a personal responsibility to do everything we can to help minimize the spread of this virus. We simply must continue the use of protective measures such as social distancing and wearing face coverings at work and off base where keeping at least six feet of distance from others is difficult to maintain. It is also imperative that we continue to sanitize work centers as well as break rooms, hallways and lunch areas. We’ve got to get this right.

Based on where we are today, we won’t “return to normal” anytime in the near future. The July UTA will again encourage maximum use of telework. Those deemed mission essential who need to attend the UTA in person can do so with the squadron commander’s concurrence. I ask each of you to continue to practice risk management in your daily schedules to help minimize the impact this virus is having, or could have, on our mission.

Thank you for all you and your families are doing to support our global mission during such trying times!