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Into the fight: Medical Group answers short-notice call to battle COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Samuel King
  • 96th Test Wing Public Affairs
Instead of Thanksgiving holiday eats and shopping, 21 96th Medical Group Airmen deployed in support of stateside COVID-19 operations.

The deployment to North Dakota, a current COVID-19 death-rate hotspot, was short notice to say the least, at only four days.

“A short notice CONUS deployment tasking in support of the NORTHCOM combatant commander to fight a pandemic is unprecedented for this medical group,” said Col. Matthew Hanson, 96th MDG commander.

As soon as the tasking came down, the deployers and their readiness teams came together to meet the requirement, prepare themselves to go and mitigate the personnel gaps left behind, according to Col. Michelle Anton, 96th Healthcare Operations Squadron.

During those few days, the deployers and their teams tackled a host of variables and obstacles that sprang up. Things like rapid medical clearances, last minute personnel swaps, unexpected reporting requirements, life support training classes, procurement of sub-zero parkas were just a few of the issues the teams encountered and overcame.

The deployers were split into two flights leaving Eglin heading North. Capt. Ronald Golemboski, a 96th HCOS nurse, was on the first flight. Golemboski, who’d deployed to combat zones in previous deployments, said this particular mission just felt different.

“This time, we can’t shoot or even see the enemy. We will gown up in our PPE (personal protective equipment) and do our best,” the captain said.

Capt. Rachael Auger, a 96th HCOS pediatric nurse, was one of 12 Airmen on the later flight. She said she hoped the team would get information quickly once they arrived, so they could get settled and be ready to begin the mission.

The deployed nurses will be divided by their specialty. The critical care nurses will be spread out across the state’s larger city hospitals, while the clinical nurses will move to help the rural locations.

These Airmen bound for North Dakota were the second COVID-19 tasking in as many weeks with a smaller group deploying to El Paso, Texas.

“I’m so proud of the battle-tested team of highly skilled medical professionals caring for the people of Texas and North Dakota,” said Hanson. “They have answered their nation’s call and are ready and equipped to fight this new enemy that threatens the health and safety of all Americans. We wish them Godspeed.”