SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
Being in the military during the COVID-19 pandemic is all about quickly adapting to whatever challenge presents itself. There is a consistent worry of the unknown, however for the 52nd Fighter Wing’s geographically separated units, or GSU’s, it is critical that service members know how to respond and even break down barriers that come with adversities.
U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Addison Stemmer, 702nd Munitions Support Squadron NCOIC of the medical unit, is serving at a GSU and exemplifies what it means to overcome obstacles while maintaining the NATO Strike Mission.
Stemmer said in a typical day he will evaluate, diagnose and treat patients, and communicate a patient’s condition to physicians.
“My job is to formulate a plan of care for patients,” said Stemmer. “It is my responsibility to get them whatever they need, whether it is to be directed to a specialist, a laboratory test, or be a physician or provider extender for that individual.”
Since COVID-19 became a world-wide pandemic, Stemmer said this has changed how he must perform his job.
“Obviously there is a lot going on in the world right now,” said Stemmer. “We have multiple geographically separated units all around Spangdahlem, so it has been a lot of communication between each of our GSU’s back to Spangdahlem (AB) to let them know what we are seeing at our location, and ultimately requesting support as necessary or additional evaluations for the patients we support.”
GSU's are often in more remote locations than typical air bases, which present more challenges due to the lack of resources available.
“Being in a remote location means that if there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately, you are pretty much the decision maker until you can get them to a higher echelon of care,” said Stemmer. “That is a pretty big responsibility, along with considering logistics in the mix. Especially with COVID-19, it can be difficult to get past some of these borders to get these supplies if your GSU location is farther away from Spangdahlem. These locations are still getting the supplies they need, however, it has just been more difficult due to the circumstances of this virus.”
Not only does this pandemic cause challenges in the work place, Stemmer said he has family friends that have passed away due to COVID-19.
“I know two people who have died from COVID-19,” said Stemmer. “They were family friends of mine, so I know first-hand the severity of this virus. They had no underlying health issues prior to contracting this virus, and it happens very quickly.”
52nd Fighter Wing leaders understand the gravity of the COVID-19 threat and how it can affect mission readiness. Spangdahlem AB and its GSUs have implemented preventative measures, such as physical distancing and limiting the number of people that can congregate at a time.
Stemmer said having goals and hobbies is what helps him push through.
“To overcome some of the stresses we are dealing with, (I) use technology to talk to friends or family, or get into a hobby in your free time,” said Stemmer. “We are all going to get through this together.”
Despite the challenges, Stemmer has continued to excel in his career, which has given him the opportunity to attend the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program while maintaining his active duty status in the Air Force.
“This has been a goal of mine for a long time,” said Stemmer. “When I joined the military, I knew I wanted to be in medicine and help people. I know that I will be spending all of my time and energy learning how to combat and prevent things like Coronavirus. I have been truly blessed in my career so far, and just having this opportunity available to me shows how great our leadership can be.”
U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Nicole Palko, 702nd Munitions Support Squadron independent duty medical technician, said Stemmer is one of the brightest, most capable, and compassionate providers she knows.
“He is a very knowledgeable Airman and knows what he’s talking about,” said Palko. “Not only is he a hard worker, but he absolutely deserves this amazing opportunity. I am extremely happy for him and he is truly going to be missed.”