Secretary Barrett views AFMC missions in action during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
  • Air Force Materiel Command

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett paid a surprise visit to Air Force Materiel Command Airmen executing critical mission activities here, April 21.

The visit provided an opportunity to highlight the countless ways AFMC Airmen are supporting the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus pandemic while continuing to safely execute the command’s critical missions for the warfighter.

“As a command, we continue to operate our critical missions while ensuring the proper safety precautions are in place,” said AFMC Commander, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr. “This was a great opportunity to show the Secretary how we’re leading COVID-19 activities to address urgent operational needs and continue to execute our wartime mission every day.”

Barrett began her visit with a stop at the 88th Air Base Wing’s Incident Command Center, the focal point for the base’s COVID-19 response,  where she had the opportunity to learn how leaders are managing pandemic response and partnering with state and local agencies. She learned about the innovative ways Airmen are serving the base populous by redesigning pharmacy service and offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett speaks with 88th Medical Group personnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 21, 2020.  Barrett met with Air Force personnel and toured several facilities at the base including the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Laboratory, which is responsible for analyzing a majority of the COVID-19 tests in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

After a walk-through of the base screening protocol, she was briefed on contact tracing and deployment preparation. She also met with Maj. (Dr.) Evan Fisher and Maj. (Dr.) Matthew Koroscil, the two base physicians leading a novel plasma protocol to combat COVID-19 and infectious disease nurses on the frontlines of the virus fight. The plasma protocol is currently experiencing a more than 90% success rate in treatment—promising news in the global fight to manage the COVID-19 illness.

“Extraordinary Airmen across the command are working with the entire government and performing duties beyond their core missions to keep the nation safe and healthy,” said Barrett, who wore a personal protective mask and maintained CDC-compliant social distancing protocols for the duration of the visit. “Today’s visit was an opportunity to personally thank Airmen for their sacrifices and continued dedication during this challenging time.”

Prior to a visit to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s United States School of Aerospace Medicine, Barrett had the opportunity to learn more about current efforts led by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to address both COVID-19 critical, urgent operational needs as well as ongoing programs to address warfighter requirements.

“AFLCMC led a cross-functional, multi-organizational effort to create solutions for the warfighter at the speed of relevance to transport COVID-19 positive patients while ensuring the safety of the aircrews,” said Bunch. “I’m really proud of how the team came together to create solutions for DoD and the nation.”

The secretary was briefed on the center’s work with Air Mobility Command on the Transport Isolation System, recently used to transport COVID-19 patients from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base for treatment, and current work on the Portable Biocontainment Care Module (PBCM) and the Negative Pressure Container testing—two critical capabilities for safe, large-scale COVID-19 patient transport. Notably, the AFLCMC team was able to reduce the typical contracting time for the NPC from months to days. 

“We continue to drive acquisition timelines down,” said Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry, AFLCMC Commander. “COVID-19 is not slowing our efforts; rather, it’s motivating us to find new ways to leverage tools and technologies to work as an acquisition community faster and smarter.”

Personnel work at the Air Force’s Epidemiology laboratory while Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett is briefed on its research in response to combatting COVID-19 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 21, 2020. At the USAFSAM, Barrett met with the Airmen in the Epidemiology Lab who are responsible for processing more than 50% of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 tests. The laboratory is the sole clinical referencing laboratory for DoD around the globe and is currently processing more than 1,000 tests per day through ramped-up, 24-hour operations in support of COVID-19.

The AFRL portion of Barrett’s visit continued with an overview of the laboratory’s efforts to leverage the Defense Production Act and industry to address critical COVID-19 requirements, including N95 mask production, respirators and nasal swabs. As widespread telework continues to be the norm across the command, the DPA teams leveraged video chat and virtual technologies to coordinate critical support for the warfighter with industry.

While Barrett’s visit was focused on AFMC’s efforts to support COVID-19, it also provided an opportunity for a quick glance at ongoing missions. She received updates on the AFLCMC-led female flight and defender equipment overhaul. At USAFSAM, she observed ongoing pilot training in the centrifuge. Barrett concluded the AFMC portion of her visit at the Air Force Test Center’s Landing Gear Test Facility where she learned about ongoing work in test programs with the potential to significantly improve acquisition timelines, life cycle costs and reduce mishap risks.

“Our work is critical and mission essential,” said Bunch. “This is just one of the many units across AFMC smartly and safely executing their missions amid the restrictions of COVID-19.”

Barrett’s visit ended at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center where she spoke with analysts on the impacts of COVID-19 to mission essential intelligence production and discussed on-going support to both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.

The brief visit only touched on the many ongoing missions at AFMC and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, even during COVID-19, yet demonstrated the dedication and hard work of all AFMC Airmen in support of the Air Force.

“When the nation calls, the Department of the Air Force stands ready to serve,” said Barrett. “Right here at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Airmen are doing what America needs most in support of the entire government response to COVID-19.”