Team Holloman Airmen assist in 49th Medical Group operations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Collette Brooks
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

For the last few weeks, Airmen from units across base volunteered at the 49th Medical Group to assist medical group personnel with the recent increase in mission operations tempo.

Incoming calls from the public and newly implemented COVID-19 protocols and procedures increased the medical group’s responsibilities, resulting in a need for more personnel to assist in these extra measures.

Various Holloman Airmen took an absence from their respective career fields to assist medical personnel with their duties to lessen the burden of the increased workload.

“As we adapted to new operations, to respond to this pandemic, we recognized we would need additional volunteers to man certain areas,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jose Nevarez, 49th Medical Group superintendent. “One of the concepts implemented was a split operations model, which divided the whole medical group in half so we could operate as two separate, but stand-alone teams.”

Although the half-manned team concept was feasible for medical personnel to deliver healthcare to their patients, Nevarez and his counterparts decided a little extra manpower would help sustain this new model long-term.

“We were overwhelmed in the public health call center, so we had technical sergeants help run and man that section,” said Nevarez. “As we continued to evolve our operations, we found the pharmacy waiting area was a huge risk for patients and staff, so we developed and implemented a drive-thru pharmacy. Volunteers helped man the main pharmacy for call-ins and the drive-thru pharmacy for prescription pick-ups.”

Volunteers were also used to help safeguard the medical group personnel and patients by manning the front desk and screening patients prior to entering the medical facility.

“The volunteers allowed us to transform operations to better serve our community and utilize resources where they were needed most,” said Nevarez. “The volunteers were not augmentees, nor do we consider them outsiders; they were a part of our team and were treated no differently.”

While Nevarez said that building a bond and working closely with the volunteers was a delightful experience, his favorite highlight of working with the volunteers was their upbeat and thirst-for-knowledge attitudes.

“I’ve been volunteering at the public health COVID-19 screening call center for approximately two months,” said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Koch, 49th Wing Inspector General self-assessment program manager. “We assisted callers from answering their questions about in processing to general COVID-19 related questions. Making sure everyone stays safe while limiting their exposure to the virus is a top priority.”

Not only did the volunteers enhance the medical group’s ability to provide prompt, safe and specialized health care to their patients, but they also provided service with a great attitude intact.

“All of the volunteers brought such positive attitudes, especially since they were placed in such an unfamiliar atmosphere,” said Nevarez. “All of them were ready to learn, all of them asked great questions and all of them were happy to be part of our team.”

Koch said his favorite part of this volunteering experience was witnessing how well Holloman adapted and overcame challenges derived from the pandemic.

“I feel a sense of pride being in the uniform during this time,” said Koch. “We are providing COVID-19 guidance to the best of our abilities, while still managing to put iron in the sky, conduct sorties and sustain the mission.”

In addition to being impressed with Holloman’s capabilities to keep operations running smoothly, Koch also said his open-mindedness, communication and active listening skills have increased while volunteering at the medical group.
“I believe it’s important for you to step outside your comfort zone and broaden your horizons,” said Koch. “Step up and try something that you have never done before. Learning how to talk to different people on a comprehensive level while working as a team is very important to our personal and professional success.”

With his expanded knowledge and personal skill sets, Koch said he can take those lessons learned back to his original career field.

“I come from a maintenance and an inspector general background,” said Koch. “This experience has been a great opportunity for me to learn and grow. Being a part of the medical group team has been rewarding and gratifying.”

Not only did volunteers experience an increase in their capabilities, but they also received a forever keepsake from the 49th MDG leadership as a symbol of appreciation for their time, hard work and dedication.

“As a small memento of gratitude paired with stepping out of their comfort zone, Col. John Davis, 49th MDG commander, wanted to thank the volunteers by coining them and giving them a certificate of appreciation,” said Nevarez. “We made them honorary medics by giving them a medical patch for their operational camouflage pattern uniform. While we know they can’t legally wear the patch per Air Force Instruction, it was important to still gift this as a symbol of our appreciation for them being a part of our team.”

Additionally, Nevarez also thanked the base leadership who allowed the Airmen to leave their respective work centers and pitch in at the medical group.

“Other than being thankful for the volunteers contributions here at the 49th MDG, I wanted to also thank the commanders and chiefs who offered these fine Airmen to help us,” said Nevarez. “If it wasn’t for their latitude, these Airmen wouldn’t have been able to help us and the medical care during these crazy times might have suffered.”