GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --
As Grissom begins to resume Reserve activities following the COVID-19 pandemic, the 434th Aerospace Medical Squadron is taking steps to promote Airman health and safety.
Lt. Col. Eric Lewandowski, 434th AMDS flight surgeon, has been providing leadership to help Grissom combat the pandemic in recent months.
“I was asked by the wing commander in April to come in and assist with the Coronavirus response,” said Lewandowski. “I started off by going through all of the CDC and Department of Defense guidelines on Coronavirus and making sure that how we were responding as a base was appropriate.”
Balancing safety with mission capability, said Lewandowski, was central to Grissom’s response.
“The military doesn’t have the option to just shut down,” he said. “We still have a mission to do, so we had to figure out ways to mitigate our health risks while remaining operational.”
While much of Grissom has already returned to the workplace, many will be returning in July for the first time since the pandemic began. For AMDS, Lewandowski said, this presents a challenge.
“We have about 600 physical health assessments that need to be done,” he said. “We’re currently looking at ways we can accomplish all of those while still keeping everyone safe.”
The clinic will continue its current policy of scanning the temperature of everyone who comes in, to ensure that no individual showing symptoms enters the often crowded building. Additionally, said Lewandowski, they are looking at ways to reduce the crowding, such as setting up outdoor tents where assessments can be performed.
“We want to keep a steady flow and minimize the amount of traffic coming through at any one time,” he said. “It’s a four-day drill weekend, so we’re going to spread that work out over all four days, and hopefully be able to get a significant number of people current again.”
In addition to all of the preventative measures AMDS is taking, Airmen are encouraged to use their own good judgement, Lewandowski said.
“If you’ve been in the clinic during a drill weekend before, you know there’s people lining the halls, and there’s only so much we can do to mitigate that,” he said. “So I encourage everyone to use hand sanitizer, practice social distancing, and if you’re not feeling well, don’t risk exposing others.”
Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, echoed Lewandowski’s call for precautions.
“We have some work to do,” Shaw said. “We can do it, but we’ve got to take the appropriate precautions and ensure that we get our readiness levels back to what they need to be in a safe and efficient manner.”
Like Lewandowski, Shaw emphasized the role everyone plays in preventing the spread of the virus.
“Our mission is to provide aerial refueling and combat ready Airmen,” Shaw said. “We can’t do our mission without our people so we will do all we can to protect them.
“I need everyone to maintain prevention standards by cleaning and sanitizing, maintaining social distancing when you can, and wearing a mask when you can’t,” he added. “And as always, wash your hands!”
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.
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