HOLMDEL, N.J. – Forty Airmen from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 108th Wing and 177th Fighter Wing answered the call for volunteers to be part of the state’s COVID-19 response force.
The Airmen are from a variety of Air Force specialties and are providing security and traffic control for the coronavirus drive-thru testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center.
“This has never been done before by the National Guard,” said 1st Lt. Chris Gable, officer in charge of Task Force Holmdel. “We worked with state agencies during Hurricane Sandy, but during this, we’re working with FEMA, U.S. Public Health Service, New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey Department of Health, and contract nurses. We’re all coming together to do our part.”
Gable, a Citizen-Airmen with the 108th Security Forces Squadron, has also been a New Jersey State Trooper for 13 years.
“We have Citizen-Airmen from several different jobs outside of the National Guard, and different Air Force specialty codes, but we’re all coming together as a team to accomplish this one mission, which is to help New Jersey fight COVID-19,” said Gable. “I couldn’t be more humbled to lead this team of selfless Airmen.”
Tech. Sgt. Jamal Roy, who normally works with aircrew egress systems at the 177th Fighter Wing, has taken on a new role as the non-commissioned officer in charge of Task Force Holmdel.
“It makes me proud to have the ability to come out with a group of Airmen I’ve never met before, to integrate with a whole other unit, come together within a couple of days, and work cohesively,” said Roy. “I believe taking on a mission like this is of vital importance. When it’s a community-based, stateside mission, where you’re from, we’re making a direct impact.”
While medical staffers have been testing hundreds of patients a day, the Airmen have been making sure traffic runs smoothly.
“We’ve had cars break down, cars run out gas,” said Roy. “There was even a medical emergency. We’re here to assist the citizens of New Jersey, and the more people we can get tested, hopefully, the more lives we can help save.”
“I’m grateful for the steadfast service of our Airmen,” said New Jersey’s State Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Rakauckas. “Whether they’ve been tasked with serving their community by supporting a testing site or providing medical support at a field hospital, I am appreciative for their role and the energy they bring to the fight against COVID-19.”
New Jersey Air National Guard Airmen continue to assist state and local authorities, with members staffing joint operations centers and testing sites and temporary hospitals throughout the state.