TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The process of changing duty stations is temporarily evolving now that more precautions are in place due to COVID-19.
Tyndall Air Force Base has created Task Force Roadrunner; a multi-agency, collaborate task force specializing in controlling the reception of incoming Airmen to limit the possible spread of COVID-19.
“Task Force Roadrunner was established to help support the reception and the communication for the (technical training graduates) that are inbound from tech school and (Basic Military Training) that are coming to Tyndall Air Force Base,” said 1st Lt. Stephanie Westrum, Task Force Roadrunner officer in charge.
The task force focuses on following quarantine guidance from higher headquarters and making the transition as safe and efficient as possible. Beginning April 1, 2020, all inbound Airmen must be quarantined for 14 days in base lodging.
“These members are coming in from technical school and some of them are coming in from areas where the COVID-19 cases are pretty high,” said Westrum. “So, to prevent a spread, these members are given a room in lodging for 14 days.”
With health concerns growing every day, new ways to bring in Airmen had to be carefully and thoughtfully invented.
“We are in charge of every aspect of receiving these Airmen,” said Westrum. “We developed reporting instructions to how they will be picked up from the airport. It’s all been planned out to keep them safe from potential COVID-19 exposure.”
The 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron has sectioned out the seats in the pickup bus so that each Airman is properly maintaining a six foot distance during transit. The front driver seat is blocked off to completely avoid contact with the driver.
“When they get off the bus, they wipe the step stool down and sanitize their hands, then the 325th LRS sanitizes the bus,” said Westrum. “All of the requirements are met in compliance with the Center for Disease Control guidelines.”
Keeping Airmen’s morale high is also a top priority. Task Force Roadrunner and the Airman Care Team, a component of the taskforce, are doing all they can to keep Airmen motivated despite limitations.
“Task Force Roadrunner is a Team Tyndall event,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Wright, Task Force Roadrunner communications lead. “It would not happen if it wasn’t for multiple people coming together to work the issue to receive these Airmen. It takes everyone to make this successful.”
Airmen are sheltered and fed so that they can report to their units as safely as possible when the time comes.
“The quarantine is important,” said Master Sgt. Richard Peterson, Airman Care Team leader. “If we were just to allow them to go to their units, then we would be possibly degrading the units, ultimately degrading the mission. It is rough; we’re all going through some form of isolation. To keep their morale high is important because they just came from technical school and ultimately they are our future.”
The care team is also using social media as an outlet for Airmen to interact with each other.
“There is an Instagram page that has been put together so that all of the Airmen coming here can meet each other and see who all is in quarantine with them,” said Westrum, “They are also able to order goods and supplies from the base exchange. The care team is able to deliver all of these things to the Airmen while avoiding exposure.”
The 325th Fighter Wing religious affairs team also has chaplain video sessions Airmen can access every Tuesday.
Airmen receive breakfast, lunch and dinner from Airman Care Team meal runners, according to Westrum. Each meal runner is dedicated to individual Airmen and personally handle the meals from the dining facility all the way to the Airman’s front door. Members in quarantine have access to a Google spreadsheet, where they can order the meal that they would like from the dining facility or items from the base exchange.
“The meal runners wear face masks and other protective gear,” said Westrum. “They have everything that they need so that they’re meeting the CDC guidelines for health protection and avoid exposing those who are protected by the quarantine.”
Private organizations on base also donated funds so that Airmen can have a meal provided from a restaurant off base every Friday to improve morale.
Airmen are limited in their activities but are not completely isolated in their rooms. Tyndall’s care teams have developed jogging maps for the base specifically designed to indicate where Airmen can run and the distance it covers.
“They still have the freedom to go workout or run around base,” said Peterson. “The catch is that they can’t enter any of the facilities on base and they can’t group together at all. This minimizes the risk to themselves and those who work or shop on base.”
Being in quarantine can prove to be a stressful time period for all involved. Task Force Roadrunner has taken every step to ensure members have what they need and know what resources to use if they need further assistance.
“A lot of people get quarantine and isolation mixed up,” said Westrum. “The members are asymptomatic, it is only a preventative measure. If they do have a symptom, they are directed to call the medical group or the medical control center to relay that information.”
The 325th Fighter Wing is taking all measures necessary to protect Airmen and their families.
“It’s paramount to make sure we’re taking care of our Airmen, especially during this challenging time,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ron Oudean, Task Force Roadrunner chairman. “I think everybody can remember when they got to their first unit. That’s a memory that’s burned in their brain for really their entire career. We want to make sure that, even in times of stress or during this pandemic, we as Team Tyndall can take care of these Airmen.”