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Air Force medics continue COVID-19 response in civilian hospitals

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jarimaris Garcia, a registered nurse stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, prepares medical equipment for incoming patients within the emergency department of Del Sol Medical Center, El Paso, Texas, Nov. 24, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jarimaris Garcia, a registered nurse stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, prepares medical equipment for incoming patients within the emergency department of Del Sol Medical Center, El Paso, Texas, Nov. 24, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-America COVID-19 response.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- As more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, reducing the chances of severe illness and hospitalizations, there are still areas in the country that require additional support. Air Force medics continue to augment care, supporting civilian hospitals in hotspots across the country.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 20-person teams of Air Force medics, including nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists, have been deployed since the end of August to support civilian hospitals in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. This has been the first time during the entire COVID-19 pandemic that the Department of Defense has deployed military medics to Mississippi.

“Air Force medics have been engaged in the nation’s COVID-19 response since April 2020, and since that time approximately 3,000 Air Force medics have been tasked to deployed in support of the pandemic,” said Col. Colin Smyth, U.S. Air Force Director of Expeditionary Medical Policy and Operations. “Currently, our medics are providing augmentation to civilian hospitals primarily in the South.”

Read more: ARNORTH supports FEMA in Mississippi, expands in Louisiana

Read more: ARNORTH military hospital support to FEMA begins in Alabama, expands further in Louisiana

These teams have been working with interagency partners and sister services as a part of a whole-of-government response to assist with the surges in cases experienced at civilian hospitals in these states.

“These medics have provided critical support in addressing civilian staffing shortages, staff burn out, vaccination capacity, throughput, and logistics,” said Smyth.

Throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Force medics have showcased their responsiveness to surges across the country, embedding with joint teams and within civilian hospitals. Not only are Air Force medics ready to respond whenever they are needed, they are also provided an opportunity to build on lessons learned.

“These types of non-traditional missions are so important for our medics to be a part of not only to serve others, but also because it is out of these types of missions that we learn key lessons and demonstrate great ingenuity,” said Lt. Col. Larissa Weir, Chief Women’s Health Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General. “This makes us even better prepared to care for our future patients both at home and while deployed.”

As Col. James Sampson, Chief Surgical Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General, explains, these medics continue to support the nation in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in addition to ensuring the health and readiness of Service members.

“I cannot overstate the tremendous support Air Force medical personnel are providing to the DoD’s response to COVID,” said Sampson. “In addition to ensuring our deployed forces remain mission capable, Air Force medics have provided teams to support civilian response to COVID, supporting outpatient care, emergency care, inpatient hospitalizations and critical care, aeromedical transportation, testing, and vaccinations.”

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