COVID-19 PANDEMIC ALTER SCHEDULES
By Master Sgt. Jeremy Farson, 117th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 15, 2020
SUMPTER SMITH JNGB, Ala. --
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused alterations to deployment schedules of the 117th Air Refueling Wing. Airmen from the 117th ARW are currently assigned to four combatant commands deployed across the world.
Most deployments were scheduled from 60 to 180 days in duration. Government orders made to combat the spread of COVID-19 have affected the movement of people and equipment. Service members have been extended where they are currently deployed. It is not known how long they will be extended.
Planners assigned to the 117th Logistics Readiness Squadron have the responsibility to get 117th ARW personnel to and from deployed areas. Planners at the 117th constantly review movement and mobilization updates released from the Secretary of Defense and Headquarters Air Force. There has been a drastic change in operations because of the pandemic.
“This is the first time I have experienced anything like this in terms of the amount of information and guidance disseminated at one time,” said Master Sgt. Chad Carroll, 117th Logistics Management Specialist. “We’re doing well with adapting to the changes as we always train for worst-case scenarios.”
The precautions enacted for the safety of service members and civilian employees in the workplace have made it challenging to coordinate deployments and bring members back home. Communication is among the biggest challenges with teleworking and social distancing.
“The communication has been pretty good but there are, at time, delays,” said Carroll. “When we have to reach out to other bases we don’t know if the person is in the office and it may take a few calls to alternate phone numbers to get through to the person we have to contact.”
Planners update the commanders at the 117th ARW of the status of the deployed personnel and any changes in guidance from higher headquarters. They also communicate with personnel at other bases in the U.S. and leadership overseas. There is a 117th Logistics Planner currently deployed that gives timely information about the conditions in the area of responsibility back to the 117th ARW Planners in Birmingham.
The Installation Deployment Readiness Cell is responsible for updating Airmen’s orders and systems to track equipment and personnel for accountability when there is an extension. The 117th ARW Airmen will be quarantined at home for a period of 14 days to monitor their health when they return from overseas.
Any family members needing support during the extended length of deployments can contact the base Health and Wellness Crew at 205-603-2660. They can advise on finances and provide assistance for psychological health. There are also multiple resources on the 117th page of the Air Force Connect app.