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122nd Fighter Wing returns to drill amid COVID-19

A U.S. Airman with the Indiana Air National Guard receives a temperature check while passing through a prescreening station June 14, 2020, at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Temperature checks were conducted as an additional safety measure to help identify members with potential COVID-19 symptoms.

A U.S. Airman with the Indiana Air National Guard receives a temperature check while passing through a prescreening station June 14, 2020, at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Temperature checks were conducted as an additional safety measure to help identify members with potential COVID-19 symptoms.

FORT WAYNE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ind. – The 122nd Fighter Wing recently returned to regularly scheduled drill after a base-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Blacksnakes priority was to safely bring back members to continue their state and federal mission of being always ready and always there.

“The command post’s response was immediate,” said Master Sgt. Anthony G. Vining, 122nd FW Command Post superintendent. “Our job is to be prepared for when our state and nation need us.”

Airmen assigned to the 122nd FW overcame the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic through innovative technology and teamwork.

“We did things like teleworking, keeping people at home, shift work and we had a questionnaire that we developed and pushed out via AtHOC,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason M. Ricketts, 122nd FW Public Health superintendent.

AtHOC is an interactive warning system the U.S. Air Force bought in 2019. It supplements the existing emergency mass notification system, desktop alert.

“Immediately, when we started the COVID-19 response, I saw that the AtHOC system could be used to keep our members informed of our response at the 122nd FW and allow them to keep us updated on their status,” said Vining. “In cooperation with the Medical Group, we developed a system that we could track the health status of our members with weekly updates. Rather than relying on our members to call in if they are exhibiting symptoms, we ask them.”

Using the Emergency Mass Notification System, the command post polled members for their health status. They analyzed their responses and quickly submitted them to the wing commander’s staff.

“It’s a lot of data, given that we have over 1,000 members in the directory, which includes members, civilians, state employees, contractors and others on base,” said Vining.

Base leaders were continuously informed with the most accurate, up-to-date data, which was crucial for decision-making.

“It’s kind of a long road to develop a workflow that helped guide the commanders and supervisors on what to do,” said Ricketts.

Touch-free thermometers were also used to check Airmen as they returned to base for training. Temperature screenings were an additional measure that helped identify members with potential COVID-19 symptoms.

“We were able to purchase enough touch-free thermometers from the local economy to meet mission requirements,” said Ricketts.

The 122nd FW’s use of teamwork, technology and forward-thinking helped overcome obstacles and create a safe environment for Airmen to continue training.

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