Repatriation Mission - One Year Later

  • Published
  • By Linda Welz
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs

On January 29, 2020, the first chartered aircraft entering the United States from Wuhan, China arrived at March Air Reserve Base, California, carrying approximately 200 U.S. citizen evacuees. Not knowing what to expect, and with less than a 24-hour notice, Team March spun into action, along with several federal, state, county, and local agencies.

Initial considerations in hosting citizens during their quarantine period involved an orchestrated effort led by Brig. Gen. Melissa Coburn, 452nd Air Mobility Wing, and March Air Reserve Base commander, and her team of military and civilian subject matter experts from across the base and their off-base civilian counterparts.

“We had to establish arrival procedures that would ensure the health and safety of our guests as well as our teams and the local public,” Coburn said. “Some of these procedures included passenger egress, luggage transfer, biohazard waste disposal, transportation, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) procedures for our team.”

Additional discussions included lodging, supplies, meals, linen and laundry, cantonment area placement, water source, gray water disposal, safety mishaps, cleaning, hand washing/sanitizing stations, etc.

The March security team quickly established an ID system and entry authorization list for access by Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services, and local Public Health civilians. The base Public Affairs staff established a Joint Information Center where military PA staff and civilian public information officers could meet daily to be sure the correct and most-updated information was being released.

All of this was in addition to maintaining the mission of training and deploying Citizen Airmen in support of global mobility operations. There were military training dates that had to be postponed and/or canceled while continuing flight operations worldwide.

“I am proud of my team for stepping up at a moment’s notice to be the first military team to accept and care for its citizens affected by this worldwide pandemic,” Coburn said.

One year later, as challenges from this pandemic continue, Team March has continued the fight to keep the mission going.

“Since the arrival of the Wuhan passengers a year ago, and their successful departure a couple of weeks later, we have adapted to many changes in how we do business,” Coburn said. “We have transitioned many of our members to telecommuting, as well as accomplished many tasks, inspections, and events virtually with great success. This is a credit to the resiliency and cohesiveness of our members, and their on-going efforts to make it work,” she said. “Although we do not know yet what our future entails, we will continue the mission first and foremost.”

Note: (link to article from one year ago)