SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The Department of Defense has stood up task forces across the U.S. to provide relief to state health care systems fighting COVID-19.
Task Force-Southeast, led by Ninth Air Force, is the primary DoD support organization for the Federal Emergency Management Agency response to COVID-19 in FEMA Regions III and IV.
“When Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, we were asked if we could potentially lead the JTF for relief,” said Col. Jason Jensen, Task Force-Southeast operations director. “We were asked again to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and were selected, which was a great opportunity to demonstrate what we have been training toward.”
Ninth AF participated in many training exercises to stay ready to respond to various situations. The unit was scheduled to participate in a major exercise before pivoting to provide support to FEMA’s fight against COVID-19. The Defense Support of Civil Authorities was a mission Ninth AF had been training to lead.
Ninth AF members needed to transition quickly from preparing for an exercise outside of the continental U.S. to real-world operations leading Task Force-Southeast.
“Standing up Ninth Air Force as the Southeast regional task force was a Herculean team effort,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Sikora, TF-SE communications superintendent. “On short notice, we had to prepare two facilities to conduct command and control of forces across 13 states to respond to the national COVID-19 crisis.”
TF-SE is based out of Shaw AFB but consists of service members from many different units across U.S. Northern Command, as well as representatives from FEMA.
“We as Airmen, think like Airmen,” Jensen said. “A Soldier brings the different perspective and expertise the Army has acquired regularly performing these operations in the homeland. We also bring in-state representatives to the task force so we can see the command and control operations on the federal side.”
As the response to the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, TF-SE is ready to provide much-needed relief to overworked healthcare workers and save lives.