More than 70 Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing have supported the state of West Virginia’s COVID-19 response efforts for nearly two months.
Some of the Airmen have deployed to locations around the state to work alongside other members of the West Virginia National Guard, while others provide support from the wing, assist at the local health departments or support operations while working from home.
167th Airmen supporting the WVNG’s Task Force Innovation have made more than 2,000 face masks. Working from the wing’s civil engineering building, the TF Innovation Airmen had cast 1,500 N95 masks by the end of April, 1,000 of those were finished with filters and straps and sent out for delivery.
The cast N95 mask design and process was developed by Shepherd University staff, Kay Dartt and Chase Molden. They provided initial training to the Innovation team and continue to work with them as the team grows and increases their capacity to make more masks.
Another 1,000 cloth and Gortex face masks were sewn by another small group of Airmen, mostly working from home on their personal sewing machines.
The 167th’s TF Innovation officer in charge, 1st Lt. Heather Kitay, said she was thankful for the team that had been assembled to make the masks.
“They are resourceful, hardworking, and they genuinely care about what they are doing,” she said.
Another group of hardworking Airmen are five medical personnel augmenting the Department of Human Health and Resource’s epidemiology teams in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. The Airmen have conducted approximately 70 voluntary COVID-19 mapping engagements, making well over 1,000 phone calls as part of their efforts.
Another group of 167th AW Airmen are supporting Task Force Sustainment, dedicated to moving critical supplies to the counties around the state and the eastern panhandle. Ten Airmen are based in Rock Branch, W.Va., and eight are supporting Task Force Sustainment – East, from the wing in Martinsburg.
“We rendezvous with Sustainment Main at a central location to transfer supplies back and forth,” explained Senior Master Sgt. Jim DeCicco, TF Sustainment East non-commissioned officer in charge.
“We dispense assets, typically, to emergency management offices.”
The team has moved through Camp Dawson, Morgantown, Clarksburg, Allentown, Pa., and New Jersey, logging 6,600 miles and handling 151,748 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Task Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise, or TF CRE –East, is comprised of 15 Airmen and 15-20 WV Army National Guardsmen. The CRE-East team has conducted about 80 missions throughout the region to date, providing PPE training, COVID-19 swabbing, sanitizing work spaces, and training retail businesses on proper handling of cargo, boxes and PPE donning and doffing.
All current and future missions performed by the WVNG are a part of a coordinated state-level public health preparation and response effort for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, initiated by Governor Jim Justice, and being led by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.