History in the making: Defeating COVID-19 with care

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Melissa Harvey
  • 301st Fighter Wing

On Aug. 1, 1948, the 301st Station Medical Group was activated at Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kan., beginning a long history of Air Force service.


The unit has been an important part of Air Force lineage in Texas since it was assigned to the 301st Tactical Fighter Wing on July 1, 1976 at what was then known as Carswell AFB. It would eventually be re-designated the 301st Medical Squadron on Oct. 17, 2008.


Throughout the years the squadron has ensured members are ready to serve their country, no matter where or when. This includes a world-wide pandemic.


On March 27, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order authorizing mobilization of the Reserve Component in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


This action gave 301 MDS Reserve Citizen Airmen the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities when approximately 15 of them deployed on April 5, 2020, in support of COVID-19 efforts.


“The 301 MDS brings talented doctors, nurse anesthetists, paramedics, and medical technicians who are Reserve Citizen Airmen and devote themselves to patient care in their day-to-day professional careers,” Col. Lawson Copley, 301 MDS commander said. “More importantly, the individuals who were tasked to deploy bring courage and sacrifice. It takes an act of courage to willingly go into a dangerous setting and do your job. The members of the first tasker had less than 36 hours from the moment of notification by phone until wheels up of the C-5M Super Galaxy Aircraft that took them to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.”


Readiness and flexibility required by both military members and their families fueled the ability to support the tasking.


I spoke with each of the members on the night of notification and shared with them that they were being mobilized for the COVID response and that they may be gone for six months or longer from their families, civilian work, and the relative safety of a lower volume of COVID in North Texas,” he said. “This is not a call that any of us could have anticipated. They each paused for a brief moment and then each resolutely confirmed they were ready and able to go, unconditionally. I cannot express how moved I was to watch them board an aircraft that would take them to a real-world medical disaster at an epicenter of need.”


The primary mission for these Reservists is to provide care for those patients battling the virus in a hard-hit area of the country.


“This is the first time that the 301st Medical Squadron (MDS) has been tasked for an involuntary mobilization in a mission to save lives on American soil,” Copley said. “We would not want it any other way.”


Now, just days after sending this group of Reservists into the fray, a second tasking of more than 15 Reserve Citizen Airmen, left the squadron on April 22, 2020, to provide continued help to civilian medical professionals as the fight against COVID-19 rages on.


301st Fighter Wing personnel from multiple areas within the wing pulled together in order to get all deploying members from the 301 MDS out the door and to their assignments.


“An unsung hero in these two mobilizations is our Unit Deployment Monitor, Master Sgt. Lindsay Estell,” he said. “These types of mobilizations usually take weeks or months to orchestrate…Additionally, the Mission Support Group, led by Col. L. Gregg Russell, made a herculean effort to smooth all of the wrinkles of logistics, finance, orders, and deployment processing which is remarkably efficient because of the high operations and deployment tempo of the entire fighter wing, year after year. Being ready and able to go to war Outside the Contiguous United States (OCONUS) has enabled us to efficiently go to war against COVID-19.


This latest deployment brings the total number of Air Force Reservists mobilized in support of COVID-19 relief efforts to more than 770 around the nation.


“When you think about the Air Force Reserve vision, it’s about answering the nation’s call,” Col. Allen Duckworth, 301st Fighter Wing commander said. “We got that call and that’s what we’re doing. Our Airmen are trained and ready and I’m extremely proud of our folks.”


As their squadron commander, Col. Copley wrote a note to his Airmen as they made final preparations to answer their nation’s call.


“To the troops, heading out the door, I would say this: You were born to be medics, every one of you,” Copley said. “You willingly sacrifice your safety and security so that others may live. Our nation is fortunate to have you on call. Go and do your thing. Be safe and take care of each other.







Note: 301st Fighter Wing Historian, Dr. Gwyn Bourlakov, contributed to this story.



For additional questions and answers regarding mobilization of Reserve Citizen Airmen, visit the Q&A section at www.afrc.af.mil/covid-19.

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