Mission Support Group plays pivotal role in wing's response to COVID-19
By Capt. Benjamin Hughes and Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers, 175th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 28, 2020
Airmen from the Maryland Air National Guard are playing an integral role in the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working alongside civil authorities and partners in the community, they have performed many successful missions throughout Maryland but none of that would be possible without the support of personnel back on base doing the behind the scenes work.
Airmen from the 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron have processed over 40 million pieces of medical personal protective equipment and supplies, as well as distributing it across the state. Medical personnel from the 175th Medical Group have supported over 100 skilled-nursing facility visits and helped distribute thousands of test kits with their Army counterparts and other government agencies. Airmen have also passed out thousands of meals at local food distribution sites in the communities around Martin State Airport. Cyber professionals assigned to the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group have tested more than 400 government websites and IPs with the Joint Cyber Security Task Force, which is valued at more than $1 million. Finally, Airmen from the 135th Intelligence Squadron worked with their counterparts in the Maryland Army National Guard and Maryland Defense Force as part of an Unclassified Processing, Analysis and Dissemination team designed to help shape leadership decisions through geospatial analysis of mission locations and monitoring of publicly available content.
These critical missions and their successes would not be possible without the support of members from the 175th Mission Support Group running the wing’s Emergency Operations Center. From a nondescript building and behind an unassuming door at Warfield Air National Guard base in Middle River, Maryland, the Airmen of the EOC are constantly assessing, tracking, and planning to determine if each tasking is working for their Wing personnel supporting missions.
When Joint Force Headquarters leadership within the Maryland National Guard receives a request for a mission to support state and local authorities, they communicate directly with members of the EOC.
“The 175th Wing EOC is a force multiplier for the wing,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Drew Dougherty, director of operations for the MDNG JFHQ. “The EOC was integral in enabling our initial response by working with the Wing to deliver a team of highly qualified and motivated Airmen ready to respond to this pandemic.”
The 20 member team working in shifts, worked closely with various staffs to ensure missions were successful. The 175 MSG Airmen are the "cornerstone for air operations," according to Dougherty.
As the mission continues, the EOC maintains accountability and reports status updates to wing and state leadership.
“Basically what the EOC does is maintain the installation and we take care of anything that happens on the installation,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Stephanie Scott, 175th Wing EOC manager. “When we send Airmen out, we want to filter them through a funnel so we have control and accountability.”
As Scott further explained, “any capabilities, assets, or members that go off the installation is what we are tracking and maintaining.”
Throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic the MDANG has had more than 100 Airmen actively supporting missions across the state while an additional 200 were in an enhanced readiness status. For all those Airmen, the EOC ensures they have all of the proper equipment, food and lodging required while they are performing their missions.
“After the EOC was stood up, we made sure that Airmen were getting what they needed,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Harrigan, 175th Wing EOC director. “If they need PPE, they reach out to us. If they need a vehicle, they reach back to us. Just making sure the Airmen on the street get what they need.”
The EOC is not just focused on domestic operations during the pandemic, as the Wing is pressing forward with training for their federal mission.
104th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft are still flying training sorties and maintainers are making sure the aircraft are ready. Cyber operators are still taking on deployments and missions with federal partners. So wing leadership must rely on the EOC to liaison and coordinate the wing’s current response is completed without any setbacks to daily training.
"They are my touchpoint to the state and they are also the state's touchpoint into the wing, since the wing is a force provider for the domestic operations mission," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Johnson, 175th Wing commander. "I am incredibly impressed with how they assess and coordinate matching personnel with specific tasks seamlessly.”