Medical helps ADR 21.3 participants focus on the mission

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Plyler
  • 52nd Fighter Wing

U.S. Air Force medical technicians have faced unprecedented challenges since COVID-19 and collectively, have shown amazing resiliency as they've remained on the front lines during the pandemic.

U.S. service members assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany deploy as the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. The 480th EFS is currently at Łask Air Base, Poland participating in Aviation Detachment Rotation 21.3, medical personnel are on site to ensure that Airmen know their medical needs are being met so that they can focus on the mission.

"There was a ton of behind the scenes work that went into this trip from a COVID-19 standpoint," said Tech. Sgt. Austin Brinker, 480th EFS Public Health non-commissioned officer in charge. "Multiple COVID-19 screenings occured for each member and additionally we took into consideration the different requirements for each person based on their  vaccination status. Finally, a medical intelligence briefing was given to everyone participating in the ADR."

On top of his normal public health responsibilities in Poland, Brinker is assisting the independent duty medical technician and the flight surgeon in the medical element. It's in this capacity that he's being counted on to be the COVID-19 subject matter expert. If anyone were to begin feeling ill during the ADR, it would be Brinker's responsibility to do the medical screening and to also help the flight surgeon make a determination on testing for COVID-19.

"It's so important that he is here with us," said Tech. Sgt. Rossmery Aragon-Leonard, 480th EFS independent duty medical technician. "With him here we have a first hand connection with public health and CDC guidance if any changes occur and how the Department of Defense, the European Union and Spangdahlem AB would be dealing with those changes."

COVID prevention is Brinker's number one priority and it's something he focuses on daily. Alongside site surveys, he also ensures members know what requirements must be met in Poland and when returning to Germany.

“Having a public health individual as part of our team helps us demonstrate, both to our allies as well as our adversaries, that we have the resilience to train and mobilize our forces in this rapidly changing security environment without diminishing our operational readiness,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Houder, 480th EFS detachment commander.  “Additionally, the ability to make decisions, communicate, and enforce them, whether to combat a pandemic or conventional forces, is a critical capability for us to practice as well as demonstrate to anyone who may be watching.”

Brinker has encouraged Airmen, when applicable, to continue wearing a mask, to avoid large crowds when off duty and if an Airman were to begin feeling ill that they should both isolate themselves and keep a journal of who they came in contact with in case a contact trace became necessary.

"Education is the first step," said Brinker. "Educating members on how to prevent COVID happened before coming out here and will continue during the entire ADR. Safeguarding the health of the 480th EFS is indispensable for the success of the mission."