AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
In response to the global pandemic, Novel Coronavirus, which swept across the globe in spring 2020, the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group stood up an unprecedented mass medical site known as Quarantine Town in order to curb the spread of the virus on April 1, 2020 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
Also known as “Q-Town,” Quarantine Town is the Area of Responsibility’s largest quarantine hub, and has been deemed, “The Gateway to the AOR.”
“Quarantine town protects our deployed service members by separating our incoming members by time and space from our general population and from each other,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Backus, 379th EDMG commander. “If one of our service members arriving has an asymptomatic or not-yet-symptomatic infection, they don’t spread it to our entire population. That’s because of Q-town.”
Q-Town was also developed in accordance with guidance set forth by the host nation Qatar, which requires all members coming into country follow a mandatory 14-day quarantine, or 336 hours, under medical supervision with twice daily temperature checks.
According to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Russell Weber, 379th EMDG Quarantine Town non-commissioned officer in charge, Q-Town is critical to maintaining mission readiness.
Weber said, “These efforts allowed deployment and redeployment for 5,500 members.”
Overall, Q-town is responsible for the quarantine of all members staying at Al Udeid and 88 forward operating locations.
Since its inception, the compound has been managed and operated by the 379th EMDG, but wouldn’t be successful without the cooperation of the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 379th Expeditionary Comptroller Squadron and numerous other wing and base units and organizations.
“Quarantine was a completely uncharted territory for the [U.S. Air Force],” said Weber. There was no previous hand book with how-to or what not to do. We essentially wrote the book for quarantine and established this operation from the ground up.”
According to Weber, Q-Town is a joint effort that has had staff from 10 different U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army career fields.
“This unique group of members has come together from AUAB and from [Camp as Sayliyah] with the sole purpose of establishing a quality operation in order to maintain base operations throughout the AOR,” he said.
As part of Q-Town’s build, the staff has established a multitude of on-site facilities to improve the overall quality of life of its residents including finance, medical and dental officers, a USO tent, a gym, and access to the Army and Air Force Exhange Service.
The Disaster Mental Heath team, which consists of mental health clinic providers, the Chaplain Corps and Marriage and Family Life Counselors visit quarantined personnel each week. The team is responsible for providing support and assistance to members during and after a major stressor that affects the base, such as COVID-19.
"Those who stood up Q-town, an unexpected task driven by this shocking pandemic, built a foundation that protected us and protected our mission,” said Backus. “We owe them our gratitude, especially because they were working before much was known and with global supply issues we have all experienced. I’m grateful for our current team every day. It’s a cross functional team that gets this done and I’m so thankful for all the hard work.”
Backus emphasized that the efforts of his team keep the mission going.
“We win today and are ready to win tomorrow – Q-town keeps that true every day.”