Friday, April 03, 2020

Air Force to Make 9th Flight to Deliver Testing Swabs

April 3, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

The Air Force's Air Mobility Command is preparing for a ninth flight next week that will bring coronavirus testing swabs from Italy to Memphis, Tenn., for distribution across the United States, a top Air Force official said.

"AMC routinely responds to emergent airlift requirements and in coordination with our interagency and international partners, AMC has been flying COVID-19 testing swabs from Italy to Memphis for nationwide distribution," said Lt. Gen. Jon T. Thomas during a telephone press briefing today. "Since March 16, C-17s have delivered three and a half million swabs on seven missions, with the seventh mission arriving last night in Memphis, Tennessee."

The eighth mission is scheduled for arrival in Memphis today, he said, bringing another half-million swabs.

AMC will continue to fly those missions as long as the command is tasked to do so by U.S. Transportation Command, Thomas said.

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."
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, deputy commander, Air Mobility Command

Medical supplies aren't the only thing AMC is transporting, Thomas said. 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. "These resubmissions bring the total number of Americans returned by AMC gray-tail organic airlift missions to more than 350 since March 19."

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."

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.

Thomas said AMC has a variety of missions that are all influenced by local conditions and situations. 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."

DOD Continually Examines, Modifies COVID-19 Response

April 3, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The Defense Department is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic and leaders at all levels are looking at resources, processes and personnel needed to fight the virus, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said today during a Pentagon news conference.

The department must protect its service members, DOD civilians and families, but there is still a mission that must be done, he said.

"We've been very careful to say that there's no bright lines, things we won't consider," Hoffman said. "Every day we're going to get up, we're going to look at where the virus is, we're going to look at how it's impacting the Department of Defense, and we're going to make decisions to balance what the risk is, what missions we need to accomplish that day, and what the impact is going to be long-term."

For example, Army field hospitals deployed to New York and Seattle have been cleared to handle COVID-19 patients. Originally, they were going to treat trauma victims.

Overall, DOD has more than 400 doctors, 1,000 nurses and 60 respiratory therapists supporting the fight on the front lines at the different sites, Hoffman said. "We have another 350 doctors, 500 nurses and almost 100 respiratory therapists that are on the way," he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, governors and mayors to set up temporary field hospitals in the areas with the greatest need. "They built a hospital at the Javits Center in New York in just under four days to provide further relief to local healthcare workers," he said.

Corps employees have also completed site selection of 549 of 669 alternate care facility sites, he said.

The department continues to provide medical supplies to civilian hospitals. DOD has turned over 5 million N-95 masks to HHS, and Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper has approved turning over another 5 million masks from the strategic stockpile.

Almost 20,000 National Guardsmen nationwide are working to combat COVID-19. "In Louisiana, for example, 1,200 National Guardsmen have helped deliver over 36,000 N-95 masks, 1.2 million gloves and 50,000 protective suits to testing sites throughout the state," he said.

But even with all these actions, the U.S. armed services are a warfighting force. Readiness is key to deterrence and "we will smartly do whatever it takes to maintain the readiness of the force," Hoffman said. "With our operations spanning around 400 bases around the world in 150 countries and 50 states, we balance risks to the force every day.

"But we will not stand down, we will trust our commanders to do what is best for their troops," he continued. "Rest assured that we were prepared to assist Americans who are prepared to defend our country if necessary."

Coast Guard repatriates 35 migrants to the Dominican Republic, following at-sea interdiction off Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 35 migrants to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Friday, following the interdiction of an illegal migrant voyage Thursday by Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement crews in the Mona Passage.
The interdiction is the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and the CBIG.

“In these times of uncertainty due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, our forces in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are fully dedicated to preserving  the safety of life at sea and to protecting the security and safety of our fellow citizens in our nation’s southernmost maritime border,” said Capt. Eric King, Sector San Juan commander.  “Our Coast Guard men and women are fully executing all service missions in the Caribbean, as we continue to work closely with our CBIG, federal, state and municipal partners to protect the islands from illegal drug trafficking, migrant smuggling organizations and other illicit activities.  Of equal importance, our crews are working tirelessly with our industry, federal, state and local port partners to facilitate safe and secure maritime commerce to the islands in this critical time.”

During a routine patrol of the Mona Passage late Wednesday night, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspect “yola” type migrant vessel in waters south of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.  A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air & Marine Operations (AMO) crew and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118) responded to carry out the interdiction.  Upon arriving on scene, the AMO interceptor vessel stopped the 30-foot blue and wooden makeshift boat.  Shortly thereafter, the Tezanos’ crew came alongside the interdicted vessel and embarked 35 migrants, including 30 men, four women and a female minor of Dominican nationality.

The cutter Joseph Tezanos transported the migrants to Dominican Republic waters, where they were repatriated at-sea just off Santo Domingo to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.  Throughout the interdiction Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with Personal Protective Equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19.  No migrants were reported to be sick or to have any COVID-19 related symptoms.

“Migrants attempting to enter Puerto Rico illegally by sea are risking their lives,” said Lt. Anthony Orr, Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos commanding officer. “In these Pandemic times, illegal immigration in the Mona Pass calls for our crews to maintain a heightened state of vigilance as the situation poses a serious risk for possible contamination to enter through our southernmost maritime border”

Cutter Joseph Tezanos is 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Operation Caribbean Guard is a Department of Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands being executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism (SJ ReCoM)/Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.