Col. Raymond A. Smith, Jr., 445th Airlift Wing commander, briefs deploying members from the 445th Airlift Wing’s Aerospace Medicine and Aeromedical Staging Squadrons, earlier this week. Airmen from the 445th Airlift Wing were notified this past weekend that they would be mobilized to New York City to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mr. Patrick O’Reilly)

Coronavirus relief: Wright-Patt ‘COVID Commandos’ fly to NYC

Medical Air Force professionals from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have flown to New York to assist the nation’s hardest-hit area in the battle against COVID-19.

In recent days, airmen from the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson have deployed to assist with the pandemic response.


With 24 hours’ notice, seven Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 445th Airlift Wing packed their bags and boarded a C-17 Globemaster III bound for New York City, where more than 67,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, a Wright-Patterson news release said.

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“You’ve trained for this, and I know you are ready. I can’t thank you enough for accepting this call to serve. We stand behind you,” Wing Commander Col. Raymond Smith told the crew as they prepared to depart Wright-Patterson Sunday afternoon.

Seven Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 445th Aerospace Medicine and 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadrons are working in the Jacob K. Javits Center, a 2.1-million-square-foot convention center converted into a makeshift hospital in Manhattan, New York City.
Photo: Contributed

The physician, nurse practitioner and five nurses, who are members of the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron and 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, flew to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and then continued on to Manhattan, the base said.

They’re not alone. Wright-Patterson said the deployment is part of a larger mobilization of more than 120 doctors, nurses and respiratory technicians from Air Force Reserve units across the nation provided in recent days in support of the COVID-19 response.

“This is what we’re trained for,” said Lt. Col. Karen G. Keller, nurse practitioner, 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, and mother of four. “We’re responding to the need.”

“The team of seven, who affectionately and informally named themselves ‘the COVID Commandos,’ are working in the Jacob K. Javits Center, a 2.1-million-square-foot convention center converted into a makeshift hospital in Manhattan,” Wright-Patterson said. “The 24-hour field hospital currently boasts 3,000 beds solely for individuals potentially exposed to, or confirmed ill with, COVID-19.”

“This virus is an invisible war. We have a responsibility and a calling to step up,” Col. Hans Otto, commander of the 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, said in the base release.

“We know what it’s like to be tired and work long shifts. We know this is going to be hard work,” Otto also said. “We’re ready to join the fight.”

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