Freedom Wing AES COVID-19 Support

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Hong
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing

More than 20 Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 514th Air Mobility Wing, gathered here at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., to prepare to deploy in support of COVID-19 relief on April 8th, 2020. Hailing mostly from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, our members were notified as recently as Sunday that they will be activated for an extended time in our efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.


This group is composed of aeromedical evacuation technicians, flight nurses, aerospace medical service corps officers, medical service personnel and medical material specialists. Each member self-identified as volunteers two weeks ago and every member answered the call when the time came.


“We train a lot to prepare for things like this,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Castro, senior flight nurse with the 514th AES.


"I'm super excited to put my training to use," said Senior Airman Kayla Thompson, aeromedical evacuation technician, 514th AES. "It's what we get ready for."


Although the vector of this deployment isn't quite clear, this team is prepared to go wherever they are directed.


"We are flexible and we will go with it whichever way it goes," said Capt. Chevon Gray, flight nurse, 514th AES. "We're keeping our minds open and just looking forward to having an impact--being an influence."


"On Sunday I received a phone call and I was floored," said Gray. "I said, 'I'm totally looking forward to it!'"


"We'll be--in a way--getting the best kind of training we could possibly ask for," said Gray.


This wasn't the first time the 514th AES was postured to respond to a national need. During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the squadron was postured to be available should the need arise.


"We would get information from the Air Force Reserve command and it would trickle down," said Castro. "It's up to us to find out if members are available and for how long."


For now, this group is slated to go to Joint Base Charleston, S.C., to complete Transport Isolation Systems training. The TIS is a device originally used to transport Ebola patients, either by C-17 Globemaster III or C-130 Hercules, while preventing the spread of the disease to medical personnel and aircrews while transporting a patient to hospitals that have the capacity to treat patients.


Our 514th AES members are preparing to join others throughout the Air Force, sister services and possibly our NATO partners as TIS alone requires additional support team members to include biomedical repair technicians, bioenvironmental engineering personnel and medical logisticians, as well as aeromedical evacuation crews and critical care air transport team members to operate.


"I feel blessed to be able to go in and support this operation," said Chief Master Sgt. Jennifer Moses, aeromedical evacuation technician, 514th AES. "It's an opportunity for us to take care of America and our partners."


The 514th AES is one of 18 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons in AFRC and there are 31 permanent AES's in the U.S. Air Force.