EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
As Eglin returned to normal operations after Hurricane Michael, a team of 96th Medical Group Airmen packed their bags to leave.
A five-person Preventative Medicine team deployed to aid Eglin’s eastern neighbor, Tyndall Air Force Base, with base recovery efforts.
The Eglin team included a bioenvironmental engineering officer and technician, public health technician, flight surgeon and medical technician. The team worked with Airmen from other bases to find potential sites for latrines, tents, housing and cooking facilities. They also provided any needed medical care and tested the local water.
Senior Airman Alan Rosko, the team’s bioenvironmental engineering technician, volunteered for the mission.
“I decided to go to help my fellow Airmen because I have waited for a chance to take what I know and apply it to a real and serious situation,” said Rosko.
Rosko and the bio team had a response time of 45 min to pack supplies and emergency kits and get to the convoy headed to Tyndall.
When the team arrived, no functional medical facilities were available.
“It was important for the folks on the ground to know there’s someone there to take care of them if something bad happens,” said Col. Brendan Noone, the team’s flight surgeon.
Upon arrival, the Airmen inspected key facilities for structural integrity, generators, heating, air conditioning and ventilation concerns. They also insured all hazardous materials were intact, secured, and reported the conditions to leadership.
“We want to be good neighbors by ensuring none of our Air Force materials are hazardous to anyone else,” said the team’s bioenvironmental engineer, Lt. Col. Christopher Cutler.
After they checked for environmental hazards, the Airmen found rooms and prepared to set up for the following day. The rooms were equipped with power, so their sleeping quarters doubled as a makeshift water-analysis lab and equipment storage area.
The males slept in the bioenvironmental room with the incubators and the females slept in the clinic with litters and equipment bags.
“We used half of the room for patients and the other half for sleeping,” said Staff Sgt. Tania Robles, the team’s public health technician.
Patients were treated for lacerations, allergic reactions, headaches and dehydration. Some of the personnel experienced cough and cold symptoms. Others came in to ensure their tetanus shots were up to date.
The Airmen tried to remain stoic as they helped the base community to pick up the pieces from the damage.
“A big thing for me was to make sure I did not show my emotions,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Ewers, the team’s medical technician. “I was trying to be strong for the people that were there.”
The team also provided flu vaccinations. They administered a total of 400 vaccines according to Noone.
“There would be 12 to 15 people in tents plus operations, long hours and people not taking care of themselves,” said Noone. “We wanted to avoid a flu outbreak that could take down the recovery response operation.”
While there, the team collected more than 200 water samples to test for bacteria contamination to determine if the water was safe to ingest and use for personal hygiene.
“It’s a two-pronged effect to keep people fit to fight by keeping the water fit to drink and knowing what they can and can’t do with the water,” said Cutler.
Another key function was food safety. The public health team assessed all food facilities and assets. They determined whether or not the food was salvageable and ensured spoiled items were properly discarded.
Eglin support was vital, according to Noone. The wing’s medical logistics personnel brought an air transportable clinic to supplement tentage provided by Moody Air Force Base’s base defense group, which doubled the clinic’s capacity.
Daily supply runs provided for additional medical equipment and needed medications. The medical logistics personnel even brought individual prescriptions from the base pharmacy to the Airmen.
“I think we did our job and did it well. We could not have done it alone and there’s still work to do,” said Noone. “It was exciting, there were long days and short nights but, I was glad to be a part of the recovery and response efforts.”