By C. Todd Lopez
The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC) is preparing for a ninth flight that will bring coronavirus testing swabs from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee, for distribution across the United States, a top Air Force official said.
“AMC has been flying COVID-19 testing swabs from Italy to Memphis for nationwide distribution,” said Lt. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, the Air Mobility Command Deputy Commander, during a telephone press briefing today.
“Since March 16, C-17s have delivered three and a half million swabs on seven missions.”
The seventh mission, which arrived back home on April 2, was piloted by two Memphis-native C-17 pilots, 1st. Lt. Bryan Burns and 1st. Lt. James Conlan. They, along with their 11-man crew delivered hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 swab kits, to be distributed around the country.
“This mission is super important,” Burns said in a 64th Airlift Wing website story. “It’s really awesome to be bringing supplies to my hometown. It brings me back to where I started.”
“I’m really humbled and honored to have the opportunity to be flying these COVID-19 kits from Aviano to Memphis. I’m really excited to be home,” Conlan said in the same story.
Thomas noted the AMC will continue to fly these missions as long as the command is tasked to do so and noted that an eighth mission arrived in Memphis on April 3.
Delivering More than Medical Tests
And medical supplies aren’t the only thing AMC is transporting. While most Americans who are overseas return to the U.S. via commercial aircraft, AMC does have a role there, too — especially for those who are stuck overseas due to coronavirus.
“Recently, and with the approval from the secretary of defense, AMC transported 86 Americans back to the United States from Colombia and Panama,” Thomas said.
Thomas said AMC is also responsible for flying other missions in support of the nationwide effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, he noted, AMC was at least partially responsible for moving gear needed to set up field hospitals on both U.S. coasts.
“AMC C-130s flew equipment and personnel to help establish Army field hospitals in New York and Washington state that will provide additional medical capacity in those areas,” he said.
“We’ve got air mobility liaison officers that are helping to coordinate those movements, as well as commercial air movements totaling nine missions, transporting 7.8 tons of cargo and hundreds of personnel to those locations.”
Dedicated to the Mission and Keeping the Force Healthy
To maintain a global mobility capability, Thomas said AMC has taken steps to ensure the safety and health of personnel — including staff, maintainers and air crew.
Both installation and wing commanders within AMC, he said, have been empowered to take the actions needed to protect their force and the missions required of them.
“It’s really important for everybody to understand how valuable … the secretary of defense’s guidance [is] on allowing local commanders to make decisions on how to best protect the force,” Thomas said.
Some of those actions, he said, include limiting the movement of certain service members, using staggered shifts, telework and implementation of health protection condition Charlie, which means there is sustained community transmission, at all AMC installations. Efforts also include medical screening, temperature checks and other measures for both air crew and passengers.
“Our national response to COVID-19 is an all-hands-on-deck effort, and Air Mobility Command is doing its part to support this fight,” Thomas said.
“Through our active reserve and international guard components, we stand ready to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of the outbreak and ensure we continue to execute rapid global mobility.”
- This story originally appeared on defense.gov. It has been edited and expanded for USO.org.
More Stories Like This
Special Forces Soldiers Make Masks for Health Care Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic
The special forces soldiers repurposed their sewing machines — typically used to repair parachutes — to assemble surgical masks.
A Military Spouse’s Guide to Staying Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
It's been a few weeks since COVID-19 forced one military spouse and her family to hunker down at home. See how she is tapping into lessons she's learned as a 17-year military spouse to help guide her through this time of uncertainly.
5 Ways Your Donor Dollars Are at Work Supporting the Military During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Find out how your donations to the USO are supporting military families during COVID-19.
More from the USO
May 21, 2020
Service Members and Military Families Find Drive-Thru Support at the USO
As social distancing and quarantines become the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, the USO has had to get creative in its delivery of essential support to our nation’s military. The latest innovation is an all-American concept: drive-thru programs and services for the troops.
May 21, 2020
10 Socially-Distanced Ways to Honor the Fallen on Memorial Day Weekend 2020
Despite the need to adhere to CDC guidelines and social distancing best practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19, there are plenty of ways you can honor the fallen on Memorial Day weekend 2020 while still enjoying the unofficial start of summer.