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97 MDG highlights readiness to AETC surgeon general team

a patch of a military member

Col. Michael Higgins, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) command surgeon, and Chief Master Sgt. Janet Woodard, AETC chief, medical enlisted force for the office of the command surgeon, listen to Staff Sgt. Christy Hendricks, 97th Health Care Operations Squadron NCO in charge of information services, discuss the administrative work the 97th Medical Group accomplishes, Dec. 3, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The medical group is now utilizing batch testing funded by the DOD instead of uses their own funds to increase testing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

military members listen to a presentation

1st Lt. Ian Roosa, 97th Healthcare Operations Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, welcomes leadership from Air Education and Training Command (AETC) with a mission brief of the 97th Medical Group (MDG), Dec. 3, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The tour focused on the COVID-19 screening process, surveillance testing plans, and general readiness of the 97th MDG. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

group of military people standing in a circle

Airmen of the 97th Medical Group gather for the medical group tour for Air Education and Training Command medical leadership, Dec. 3, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Several stops made on the tour highlight how current operations have transitioned to ensure extra preventative mitigations at the 97th Air Mobility Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

A military medical member talks to another military member

Capt. Lance Hayes, 97th Medical Support Squadron medical readiness flight commander, explains to Col. Michael Higgins, Air Education and Training Command command surgeon, the current capabilities of the 97th Medical Group, Dec. 3, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Some of the increased measures the medical group has implemented is their personal protective equipment usage process, contact tracing plan, post-test interviews, monitoring and tracking measures, as well as augmentee support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

group of military members standing around

Tech. Sgt. Charity Vest, 97th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron flight and operational medicine technician, explains to Col. Michael Higgins, Air Education and Training Command command surgeon, how the flight medicine team has kept students and instructors medically ready to continue the mission, Dec. 3, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Public health and flight medicine have been utilizing augmentees to assist in the increased workload. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Medical leadership from Air Education and Training Command in Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, visited Altus Air Force Base to take part in an immersion tour of the 97th Medical Group, Dec. 3, 2020.

The immersion tour showcased the 97th MDG’s readiness capabilities to Col. Michael Higgins, Air Education and Training Command command surgeon, and Chief Master Sgt. Janet Woodard, AETC chief, medical enlisted force for the office of the command surgeon. The tour focused on the COVID-19 screening process, surveillance testing plans, and general readiness of the 97th MDG.

On the tour, the AETC team learned the medical group has implemented their personal protective equipment usage process, contact tracing plan, post-test interviews, monitoring and tracking measures, as well as augmentee support. Other changes for the medical group include increased manning hours and having more members on call.

“As far as being aggressive and getting on it, I think the group has been awesome,” said Master Sgt. Jose Jimeniez, 97th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, flight chief of public health. “Honestly, I'm not trying to sound biased, but I think we're continuing to work excellently with augmented help. We have improved our operational readiness, so my opinion, I think it's been fantastic here.”

Several stops highlighted how current operations have transitioned to ensure extra preventative mitigations. This aspect, according to Higgins, was easily apparent from the tour when members spoke about the readiness initiatives for the 97th MDG.

“They certainly have a sense of purpose towards readiness, not just for deployed operations, but our training operations and looking at COVID as a readiness imperative,” said Higgins. “That showed in every spot; the awards that their Airmen are winning are a testament to that. It was quite inspiring to see a medical group that's in a relatively remote place have such a high density of morale.”

One readiness capability the medical group has transitioned to is a different procedure for COVID-19 testing. The medical group is now utilizing curative oral fluid tests for batch testing, funded by the DoD instead of their in-house funds. This allows the medical group to run more tests and 40 different members to be surveillance tested roughly every two weeks.

“I agree with it [the curative oral fluid test] because this is a simpler, easier, and cheaper way to do mass testing,” said 2nd Lt. Cristopher Adorno Rodriguez, 97th Health Care Operations Squadron chief of medical laboratory services. “Moving on to the curative test, we will avoid having more than one individual from one single unit in one batch. If one of the batches comes back positive, we quarantine one flyer, one person from CE [Civil Engineer], or one person from maintenance. So that way it doesn't affect any single unit too much. To increase the surveillance and make it effective, we have to test in mass, and we cannot do that with the tests that we have in-house.”

According to Higgins, the tour was not only a great way to see the hard work 97th MDG has done, but a way to hear directly from the Airmen as well.

“I loved spending time and hearing the stories of our Airmen and how they support the 97th Air Mobility Wing,” said Higgins. “In particular, I'm left with how proud they are of each other and proud of their fellow Airmen on the base.”

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