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Tigers redeploy amidst COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney; Airman 1st Class Destani Matheny
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron and the 79th Fighter Generation Squadron, also known as the “Tigers”, as well as other Team Shaw units, redeployed from U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, late May to early June.

Upon their return amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, various supporting agencies took precautions to protect the health of returning Airmen, their families and the individuals who facilitated the homecoming.

“Our role in the redeployment was to screen individuals to make sure they didn’t have signs of COVID-19,” said Tech. Sgt. Ian Money, 20th Medical Group force health management noncommissioned officer in charge. “It was also to make sure they understood they were being quarantined for 14 days. We provided education to them and addressed any other medical concerns.”

Before COVID-19, the 20th MDG’s part in redeployments was on the back side, with regular checkups. However, now medical airmen are some of the first faces the redeployers see as they are greeted and screened.

“We’ve adapted well to all these changes,” said Money. “We have a good understanding that there’s still a lot of unknown and kinks that we’re working out. We were able to adjust on the fly to be able to get them home to their families as safe and soon as possible.”

The 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron remained consistent in their cargo processes, however their personnel management procedures evolved to meet the demands of the time.

“It changed drastically,” said Senior Airman Evanah LaFleur, 20th LRS deployment coordinator. “Previously, we had a big group of family members waiting for their loved ones to come back. Because of COVID-19, we had to separate everyone. When they landed, they got a medical screening. We also had a shuttle service dropping the redeployers off at four locations, based off of last name, where their families were waiting for them.”

The Airman and Family Readiness Center also made significant changes. While monthly family dinners for the families of deployers due to COVID-19 restrictions are paused, the AFRC is still showing support and sending information.

“We recently stood up all virtual briefings, and we were able to record all of our briefers in their respective area and consolidate it into one video then display that video to about 50 people a day,” said Tech. Sgt. Shakina Singleton, AFRC readiness noncommissioned officer. “Using telecommunications saves time for us and for the briefers.”

Before the return, the AFRC held telecoms for families of those deployed specifically, consisting of updates about their deployers and as a show of good faith that they are still here to support. The AFRC also encourages spouses to join in on the return briefings so everyone is on the same page.

“Our briefings are still standard, nothing changed for us except the form of communication,” said Singleton. “As long as I’ve been in, nothing like this has ever happened so being able to still continue the mission via telecommunications shows how resilient we really are as a workforce.”

After answering their nation’s call downrange, Airmen can rest easy with the knowledge that Shaw’s helping agencies innovated a new style of homecoming with COVID-19 safety in mind.

“This is the best part, getting someone home to their family,” said LaFleur.