JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, TEXAS –
In less than 36 hours, nine medics from the 433rd Airlift Wing and an Individual Mobilization Augmentee from the 59th Medical Wing here mobilized and deployed to New York City on a C-5M Super Galaxy April 5, 2020, to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Two weeks ago, the Air Force Reserve sent out a call for Reservists who are medically trained, to volunteer in order to get on top of the disease and help the affected communities, and April 3rd, the call came down to mobilize the volunteer Reserve Citizen Airmen.
Tech. Sgt. David Rudd, a 433rd Medical Squadron respiratory technician who deployed, said in his 12 years in the military he’s never seen such a short turnaround for mobilization and deployment.
“The fact that we were able to get the phone call Friday night at 8 p.m. and then boots leaving at 10 a.m. Sunday; I’ve never seen that,” Rudd said. “It’s amazing how all of us were able to get ready so quickly and it shows what our country is capable of.”
The mobilized Reserve force boarded the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory; a C-5M Super Galaxy with an aircrew of 11 Reservists from the 433rd Operations Group. They headed towards Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, to pick up another group of medics, then took off again for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Once there, they are to in-process with the U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Forces Land Component Command, based out of New Jersey. The medical personnel are slated for follow on movement to New York City’s Javits Center.
Even though the Reserve medics knew where they were going and what they were going to be fighting, Rudd said the biggest concern was the unknown.
“I took an oath when I became a respiratory practitioner to help people,” he said. “We’re all medical and we’re willing to help, but the question is, ‘what are we actually going to be doing? Are we going to be doing tasks within our skillset or will they need us for something completely different?’ We don’t know yet.”
The mission of the 433rd Airlift Wing, also known as the Alamo Wing, is to organize, equip and train its approximately 2,500 Reservists. Maj. Reginald Whittington, 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron clinical nurse and mobilized Reservist, said that despite the unknown, he feels ready to face the challenges ahead.
“We are trained to expect the unexpected,” Whittington said. “I’m looking forward to treating patients and helping people and I’m ready to meet the challenge.”
This deployment is part of a larger mobilization package of more than 120 doctors, nurses and respiratory technicians Air Force Reserve units across the nation provided over the past 48 hours in support of COVID-19 response to take care of Americans.
Some of the medics mobilized this weekend in support of COVID-19 operations are from a pool of individual Reservists, called Individual Mobilization Augmentees. IMAs are normally not assigned to a scheduled deployment cycle; however, close to 15 IMAs are among the medical personnel who volunteered for mobilization in this initial wave of deployments for the Air Force Reserve.
In addition, approximately 50 Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers, who are also IMAs, are currently mobilized to help with interagency Defense Support to Civil Authorities at the state and federal levels.
Through the volunteer process all Airmen were screened for the impact of this mobilization to their civilian communities and professions, along with meeting the medical eligibility requirements of the DOD and the Centers for Disease Control.
Whittington said he’s been with the 433rd AW for 13 years and the unit has always been at the tip of the spear, but it doesn’t happen without the support of families.
“I’m extremely blessed to have a great family who appreciates what I’m doing,” he said. “I’d like to say our families are the heroes in this because they take care of our children and homes while we’re gone. So in every case, our families are the ones who are to be celebrated.”
Col. Terry McClain, 433rd AW commander, said he takes great pride in how the unit and the community has come together in the fight against COVID-19.
“In the span of 36 hours we came together to send a team of warrior medics off to battle,” McClain said. “Through teamwork and collaboration the 433rd AW was able to directly support AFRC’s initiative to assist a nationwide effort to combat COVID-19; and we’re ready to do it again.”