TRAVIS AFB (CBS13) – After the longest and perhaps most difficult mission of its kind, an active duty service member with COVID-19 is now back in the US recovering. The mission called for two trans-pacific flights and crew members from several different career fields, considering all the challenges, but two of the Travis Air Force Base team members CBS13 talked with said it all comes with the job.
The sensitive, meticulous and critical mission unfolded onboard a C-17.
“A mission that’s never really been done before, I definitely went in with my fair share of nerves,” said Senior Airman Tristen Poe.
“It was such a long and prolonged mission. There were so many different facets to it,” said Tech Sgt. Hannah Currie.
Poe and Currie walked us through their journey of bringing an active-duty service member in critical status with COVID-19 back home from the Indo-Pacific region.
“It definitely has it’s own challenges from what we normally do both clinically and operationally,” Currie said. “I think the biggest thing is bringing all the different career fields in to make this mission go.”
That’s because transporting COVID-19 patients requires several layers of precaution. For example, they use what’s called a TIS module – or transport isolation system – so infected patients can receive care while minimizing risk to the crew.
“Full-on plastic gown, they wear multiple layers of clothes, all kinds of respiration protection,” Poe said.
“Very different from how we fly. There are communication issues because we aren’t able to keep the same headsets in there because of infectious control, so we’re using a lot of whiteboards to communicate inside and outside of the containment system,” Currie said.
It was a complicated mission with risks, but they’re just happy they could bring a fellow service member home.
“Comfort them and to be their family when they have no family and to take care of them I think is one of the most rewarding things ever,” Currie said.
“For me, I’m a prideful person and for me, I definitely took a lot of pride out of it,” Poe said.
Travis Air Force Base is one of three staging areas for the US Air Force’s specialized evacuation missions for COVID-19.
While they’ve used the TIS less than two dozen times during the pandemic, this was by far the longest flight they’ve had to do yet.