TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The Disaster Emergency Medical Operations Support Team tested more than 250 Airmen for COVID-19 prior to their departure to a deployed location April 15, 2021, here.
The Department of Defense added new guidelines for deploying service members during the pandemic, and the DoD is making every effort to keep COVID-19 out of deployable locations. Following a two-week restriction of movement, Airmen deploying are required to get tested for COVID-19 before leaving Travis AFB.
“In an effort to mitigate risk and the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Defense recently made it mandatory for deploying personnel to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 1-3 days prior to departure,” said 1st Lt. Kenneth Elejorde, 60th Air Mobility Wing installation deployment officer. “This additional layer of precaution is vital to ensure personnel are free of infection before travel.”
When COVID-19 arrived in 2020, Team Travis set up an incident management team to help handle difficulties that the pandemic would bring in the future.
“We’re here to improve processes and manage how this disease is impacting not just the Air Force, but the world,” said Col. Dan Murray, 60th Medical Group public health emergency officer. “Our mission is to save lives, prevent suffering and provide for the continuance of operations.”
To improve the existing process and ensure compliance with the DoD guidelines, public health stood up a rapid testing and screening site. Airmen could now be tested at their home station, instead of being tested en route to their deployment location.
“Currently, Air Mobility Command has two COVID-19 testing elements which process tests for deployers, en route,” said Maj. Chelsea Arnold, 60th MDG clinical social worker and DEMOST flight commander. “To make the process easier for deployers, we’re testing them here instead to ensure they are medically ready and cleared, COVID-19-negative, and able to continue with their deployment mission.”
Elejorde explained that this was a first for Team Travis.
“This was the first time we tested an entire cohort of deploying personnel since the DoD’s recent change in the guidance,” Elejorde said. “Our public health team tested more than 250 personnel and had results ready within 24 hours.”
Depending on which host nation service members are deploying to, they are required to meet different guidelines before arriving in country as instructed by the DoD. For example, if an Airman is deploying to Afghanistan and is vaccinated, no ROM is required, but a negative viral test result within 72 hours of departure to Afghanistan is required. If an Airman is not vaccinated, a seven-day ROM is required in addition to the negative test result.
Arnold emphasized the amount of effort required by DGMC to make this successful.
“This was no small feat,” Arnold said. “We brought together 30 Airmen from different career fields from David Grant USAF Medical Center, and they all worked efficiently and effectively to ensure these deployers were ready to safely deploy.”