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The Journey through COVID; a 30th Medical Group Q&A

Medical Group Photo Montage

As Vandenberg Air Force Base nears the one-year mark of declaring a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the path forward continues for the 30th Medical Group in their efforts to protect Airmen and Guardians, and help stop the spread of the virus. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

As Vandenberg Air Force Base nears the one-year mark of declaring a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the path forward continues for the 30th Medical Group in their efforts to protect Airmen and Guardians, and help stop the spread of the virus.

We asked some of our Medical Group leadership about the journey - where we started, where we are today, and what lies ahead. Here are some of their thoughts.


Q. The Med group often trains for public health emergencies, what role did that play in preparing for the start of the COVID-19 response?

“The Med Group hosted a Wing Exercise on the Disease Containment Plan in January of 2020. Hundreds of man hours went into prepping and exercising for a theoretical Public Health Emergency. One month later, we quarantined the first individual at Vandenberg AFB and have been sprinting since. The training was instrumental in allowing the Wing to respond as a team to this pandemic.”

~ Maj Paul Vu, 30th MDG emergency officer


Q. We are nearing the one year mark when Vandenberg first declared a public health emergency for COVID-19, so what has it been like working a long, sustained response effort?

“This has been like a 12 month deployment with the long days and long weeks, but without divesting any of the home things that normally take a back seat during a deployment – like cooking, cleaning, yardwork, staying fully engaged and physically present for family. So focusing on basic resiliency – getting enough sleep, fitting in exercise, staying connected with people, sustaining religious and spiritual health – has been even more important than normal, even more important than a ‘normal’ deployment.”

~ Lt Col. Heidi Clark, 30th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander
 

“Honestly, I thought it’d be over by now… It has been challenging, but I have hope that the end is near as more and more people become vaccinated.”

~ Maj Paul Vu, 30th MDG emergency officer


Q. How has it been for you and your team adjusting to the “new normal” of life in the pandemic?

“While the efforts and hours have been long, adjusting to the ‘new normal’ has been rewarding at the same time. We’ve seen our Airmen innovate, evolve and excel in ways that demonstrate character, leadership/followship, and that they care for one another for the long-term.”

~ Lt Col Joseph Rountree, 30 Health Care Operations Squadron commander


Q. How does it feel now that COVID-19 vaccinations are in progress at Vandenberg with Operation fight back - is it a milestone moment?

“I’m proud of the work our team is doing; our vaccination percentage and vaccinations per hour compete with the “big dogs” of the USAF. Not only is this historically important work, it is also gratifying to see our small team work so efficiently, effectively, safely and with great attitudes to protect the mission of Team V.”

~ Lt Col. Heidi Clark, 30th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander


Q. How important is the vaccination process to maintaining readiness? Do you have any advice for those unsure about getting the vaccine?

“Maintaining one’s health is an important factor in medical readiness. An unexpected COVID-19 positive individual will not only remove that warfighter out of the fight, but potentially an entire unit. Initially, I was among the skeptics regarding the vaccine. Look at the research, not hearsay. I’ve received the complete series and I’m happy I did.”

~ Lt Col Andria Sharp, 30th MDG Chief Nurse

“Health is always tied to readiness; our people are the ones who do the mission, and healthy bodies are essential to mission success.  By reducing the likelihood that individuals will become ill with COVID-19, or reducing the severity or duration of the illness, we are protecting their individual health and their ability to support the mission.”

~ Lt Col. Heidi Clark, 30th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander


Q. What message do you have for people who think there might be less need for other COVID safety precautions now that vaccinations have started – what’s the road ahead?

“Would you believe that ending COVID starts with me and my family, and this is through sustained effort. As we know what the risk factors are - and know how to reduce and eliminate those risks - develop that ‘muscle memory’ to keep doing those good things. By keeping up with those precautions on a continued basis, and with increases in vaccinations uptake, we'll end COVID soon.”

~ Lt Col Joseph Rountree, 30 Health Care Operations Squadron commander