87th Air Base Wing leads the way in COVID-19 response

By Senior Airman Ariel Owings | Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs | July 22, 2020

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential personnel of Joint Base MDL have been working around the clock in supporting the fight against it.

From providing facemasks to medical professionals and first responders in New York City to becoming a designated quarantine location for the Northeast, Joint Base MDL has been one of the lead players in the contribution of providing necessary goods and services.

One of the biggest players here has been the 87th Mission Support Group. The 87th MSG provides facilities, services, logistics management, contracting, force protection, fire protection, crisis action planning and response, communications, passenger and cargo movement and personnel resource management. All of which have been essential throughout the pandemic having served 53,169 meals to quarantined personnel at Camp JBMDL, along with deploying nearly 1,900 short tons of cargo to the Northeast region and transporting nearly 3,500 passengers as of July 12, 2020.

“The Airmen of the MSG touch just about every activity that happens on JB MDL in one form or another,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Hall, 87th MSG deputy commander. “Without the MSG, the base wouldn’t run. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that has not changed, our team has continued to support the mission and [have] taken on additional mission sets such as the reception and forward deployment of medical relief throughout the northeast and the stand-up of a quarantine and isolation facility that has safely housed over 1,400 personnel.”

The effects on the missions and personnel have left an impression on the way operations are run.

Some changes have called for additional personal protective equipment, adding an extra challenge to the daily jobs while other changes called for new ways of communication, improving time management and allotting for more job training hours.

“Responding to COVID-19 has been a challenge,” said Hall. “We’ve had to develop new strategies to accomplish our mission and in the process of doing so, we’ve developed new skills that will no doubt have a lasting impact on the way we operate. Our Airmen have used their ingenuity to put processes and procedures in place that just four months ago did not exist and this experience, while difficult, has built their toolkit for years to come.”

Although the spread has continued to fluctuate, it has not stopped the preventative efforts to continue mission-focused operations. The 87th Civil Engineer Squadron has been a main component to enable continued base operations and ensure necessary equipment needed, new protocols and construction are available for joint base personnel.

“The CE team rapidly built up capabilities for [the 87th Medical Group] to conduct outdoor screenings [for COVID-19],” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Clemmensen, 87th CES commander. “These efforts were essential to keeping the 87th MDG operating without a spread of infection in their facilities. Additionally, it sounds simple, but I’m extremely proud the team has kept the power on and water running during this crisis without ever compromising the health and safety of the team, despite a few significant weather events we’ve faced.”

Thanks to the 87th CEG’s prompt response to 87th MDG requests for equipment, tents and supplies, the clinic was able to continue pharmacy operations for all 86,000 beneficiaries throughout the pandemic. Patients were able to wait in the safety of their vehicles outside the pharmacy while their prescriptions were delivered to them. Within two months of the new process, the pharmacy assisted 2,325 patients and prescribed 15,866 medications.

“We, as the 87th MDG Leadership, are extremely proud of our team’s commitment and dedication during the pandemic,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Hughes, 87th MDG commander. “All medics responded with courage and enthusiasm when called to face the front lines of the pandemic. The 87th MDG personnel’s flexibility and ingenuity in serving our base population and surrounding community continue to impress – with strict infection control measures in place, our professionals improve processes daily ensuring healthcare services to all of our beneficiaries. Our medic’s reassuring smiles in all-weather conditions and the gratitude on the faces of our retirees lining up for their medication pickups on an early Saturday morning are true reflection of an amazing team of professionals doing whatever it takes to provide trusted care to all of our patients anytime … anywhere.”

While the installation continues to push forward, this fight is not over. The members of Joint Base MDL continue to work and create new and innovative ways to not only clear the infection and protect the community, but to prevent further spread and terminate COVID-19.

“This year has proven that Team Joint Base MDL is truly prepared to handle emergency situations and attack them head-on,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Bridget Gigliotti, Joint Base MDL and 87th ABW Commander. “During these challenging and unprecedented times, we’ve worked tirelessly to protect our service members and families, and support those with key roles in the governments’ response to COVID-19. I am honored to work with this team of talented Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen here at Joint Base MDL, and proud to serve alongside the leadership throughout the ranks, guiding our forces.”