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COVID protocols create new normal for 445th AES

Capt. Emily Perkins, a flight nurse with the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, checks information on her tablet during a mission brief Jan. 9, 2021.

Capt. Emily Perkins, a flight nurse with the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, checks information on her tablet during a mission brief Jan. 9, 2021.

Members of the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron hold a mission brief in a maintenance bay at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, before heading out on a training flight Jan. 9, 2021. The members socially distanced, wore masks and used their internal radio systems to communicate with each other.

Members of the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron hold a mission brief in a maintenance bay at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, before heading out on a training flight Jan. 9, 2021. The members socially distanced, wore masks and used their internal radio systems to communicate with each other.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Members of the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron participated in a monthly training exercise during the January 9 and 10, 2021 unit training assembly with COVID-19 protocols in place. 

The virus has altered the way AES Airmen have to interact with each other and it’s been a challenge for the Airmen but it hasn’t stopped them from completing the tasks they need to stay mission ready.

“COVID definitely slowed us down when it first hit,” said Capt. Emily Perkins, a flight nurse with the 445th AES and the acting medical clinical coordinator (MCC) for the AE exercise.  “But we adapted and learned how to make it work.”

Pre-mission briefings are normally held in a conference room with everyone sitting around a table taking turns discussing the mission events as well as roles and responsibilities. But now, meetings are a bit different during this unique time in history. They are now held in a maintenance hangar with everyone properly spaced apart and at their own tables.

Other than the buzzing of the lights, it is almost completely silent during the meetings.  The Airmen utilize their internal radio systems, with headsets and microphones, to speak to each other.

“It (internal radio system) allows us to communicate effectively while maintaining distancing and while wearing our masks,” said Maj. Joli Beasley, a flight nurse and the acting medical crew director for the exercise.

The Airmen used their electronic tablets to access products and documents without the need to hand out paper print outs.

The AES Airmen, along with the rest of world, have to be conscious to social distance and wear a mask at all times. 

“While flying, we have to switch to the N-95 surgical masks,” said 1st Lt. Francis Slonkosky, a flight nurse with the squadron. “The N-95 is designed to protect the wearer form airborne particles and liquid droplets.”

The aircraft recirculates the air onboard so a mask that provides airborne protection is a necessity. Most individuals wear their N-95 mask with their personal masks over top just to add that extra layer of protection.

When asked how else the virus has affected the AES training routine, Beasley added, “We do our best to stay away from each whenever possible. We always wear the proper masks. We also, just due to the distancing aspect, have to include less people in the training to minimize crowding.” 

Despite having these new limitations, the AES has still managed to stay current on training and continued to hone their skills as flight nurses and medical technicians.