99th Medical Group deploys in response to COVID-19

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Bethany Karlberg
  • 57th Wing public Affairs

Members of the 99th Medical Group were deployed to California at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of California in response to a surge of COVID-19 patients Jan. 7 to Feb. 13, 2021.

The 99th MDG was activated to provide medical support at overrun hospitals. The Airmen supported Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center, Adventist Health White Memorial and Riverside University Health System.

As the 99th MDG arrived to support the hospital, relief rippled through the hospital.

“It was like watching a superhero come in and [the situation] was only going to get better,” said Monica Escobar, a registered nurse working at LAC+USC.

The group worked side by side with the 60th MDG, Army colleagues and civilian medical personnel. The deployment was a collaborative effort between FEMA, the state of California, United States Northern Command, United States Army North, Air Forces Northern and the Department of Defense.

The deployers filled positions as medical doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, respiratory therapists and medical technicians as they treated COVID-19 patients. Twenty personnel assisted LAC+USC, 14 personnel supported AHWM and 10 personnel helped RUHS.

“We are fully invested in supporting the homeland. It is where our families live,” said Maj. Becky Bautch, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner at the 99th MDG who served at LAC+USC. “This rapidly evolving situation of COVID-19 requires a whole-of-America approach. As Americans, we are proud to answer our nation’s call and will always be prepared to be there for the communities who support us back home and abroad.”

Although the high level of acute illness and large number of patients was a situation some had never been in before, the team’s medical training created effective professionals.

“Really nothing could prepare me for what I saw,” said 2nd Lt. Chad Lee, medical surgical nurse at the 99th MDG who served at AWHM. “It felt really good to be a part of this team. Regardless of what our job set was or where we were from, we all worked the floor like a well-oiled machine.”

According to Bautch, the 99th MDG had a tremendous impact on sharing the patient workload in the hospital and were able to leave once they started seeing hospital beds open up. Now, the team is ready to answer the call for future COVID-19 relief responses.