ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Within 48 hours of notification, the Air Force Reserve mobilized more than 120 medical personnel across the nation to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., to help with the fight against COVID-19 in New York City.
Air Force Reserve Command units mobilized over 40 doctors, over 70 nurses and approximately 13 respiratory technicians who departed their home stations today for JBMDL for further inprocessing with the U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Forces Land Component Command, based out of New Jersey. The medical personnel are slated for follow on movement to New York City’s Javits Center.
The mechanism to get these Reservists out the door so quickly is AFRC’s Force Generation Center. Stood up in 2010, the FGC serves as an amalgamation of a massive deployment cell, a 24/7 air operations center and the crisis action team manager for the Air Force Reserve, in conjunction with the other AFRC A-staff directorates.
“The stand-up of the FGC and the capabilities it brought the command has made this COVID-19 mobilization a success this weekend,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, AFRC commander and Chief of the Air Force Reserve. “The FGC team and our wing commanders got this mobilization moving in the right direction within 48 hours to take care of Americans in the fight against COVID-19.”
It isn’t easy to mobilize civilians into military status normally, much less within two days. However, the leadership across the Air Force Reserve leaned forward to pre-identify volunteers from the Selected Reserve – which are Reserve Citizen Airmen currently actively serving in the Reserve.
“Using SELRES member volunteers enabled the FGC to do a quick-turn to meet this first of many expected taskings coming to the Reserve component from the DoD,” said Brig. Gen. Stacey Scarisbrick, FGC commander. “It’s important to get our Reservists out the door quickly to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and take care of Americans.”
Reservists normally plan for deployment through a Reserve Component Period. A RCP is a period of months that a Citizen Airman could be mobilized to support a Total Force Air Force tasking around the world. It enables Reservists to provide planning to their civilian employers and families, as well and arrange school and training schedules appropriately. Actively serving Traditional Reservists at an Air Force Reserve wing are assigned to a RCP to help provide stability to know when they may be tapped to deploy.
Some of the medics mobilized this weekend in support of COVID-19 operations are from a pool of individual Reservists, called Individual Mobilization Augmentees. IMAs are normally not assigned to a RCP to deploy; however, close to 15 IMAs are among the medical personnel who volunteered for mobilization in this initial wave of deployments for the Air Force Reserve. In addition, approximately 50 Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers, who are also IMAs, are currently mobilized to help with interagency Defense Support to Civil Authorities at the state and federal levels.
“From our IMAs to our Reserve medics, I couldn’t be prouder of this incredible Reserve team who stepped up quickly to answer our nation’s call,” Scobee added.
Through the volunteer process, members were screened for impact to their civilian communities and professions.
“We did not want to pull a doc or nurse out of their community clinical practice or hospital if already ensconced in coronavirus operations,” said Col. Teresa Bisnett, AFRC’s surgeon general. As the top doctor at the command, Bisnett, her team of medical specialists, and the unit and wing commanders, took care to ensure the balance between civilian responsibilities and military requirements were considered in Citizen Airmen deployment selection.
“It was truly a team effort with our units to ensure the right Reservists were selected to provide this surge capability to our nation,” Bisnett said.
All Reservists deploying were also medically screened according to DoD and the Centers for Disease Control guidance.
As COVID-19 response requirements for more medical personnel, aeromedical evacuation capabilities, logistics experts and other specialties grow, the Air Force Reserve was granted the authority to activate the inactive Reserve, as needed, by the President’s March 27 Executive Order. Calling up Individual Ready Reservists (IRR) includes bringing back into service prior service members and retirees with a Reserve commitment left on their record at the time of separation or retirement.
“Our approach to fill future COVID-19 taskings will be to utilize currently serving Reservists first who are assigned to RCPs,” Scarisbrick explained. “Then we will look at volunteers who want to come back and serve before we explore involuntary mobilization.”
All members of the Air Reserve Component, currently serving or in the IRR, must be prepared for mobilization at any time.