Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Public Health Emergency Officers balance risk and mission during crisis

Military personnel packing sanitizing products Airmen work together to create hand sanitizer at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, April 6, 2020. The Airman were able to gather all of the hand sanitizer ingredients from locations on base and in the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va.—The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the role of Air Force public health emergency officers to the forefront.

PHEOs are military treatment facility staff who are designated to serve as a resource to help guide installation commanders during a large scale public health incident. They provide expertise and recommendations to base leadership on how to respond, mitigate, and control the incident as well as coordinate information and response activities with local community health officials.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exactly why we have PHEOs,” said Col. Jim Poel, chief, Public Health Branch, Air Force Medical Readiness Agency. “This pandemic pushed us well past table-top exercises with installation and local health department personnel. Many people at the installation level are contributing to pandemic mitigation efforts. The PHEO is critical to help provide clarity and give advice about the threat and how to respond, but this is truly an all-hands on deck event.”

PHEOs undergo extensive training, starting with basic public health emergency management courses. Additional courses are taken within two years of their assignment with specific casualty courses, and sustainment courses taken throughout their role as a PHEO.

“The PHEO role is an additional duty,” said Poel. “The primary and alternate PHEOs are nominated by the military treatment facility commander and appointed by the installation commander.”

PHEOs serve multiple roles. They are often the MTF’s Chief of Aerospace Medicine or the senior Public Health Officer. But with COVID-19, PHEO responsibilities have expanded. Capt. Sean Lee, a PHEO with the 7th Medical Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, is a good example of how this expanded role was critical to his installation leadership during the crisis.

“My roles and responsibilities as base PHEO really grew during the pandemic,” said Lee. “COVID-19 is not just a public health or medical group issue. It touches every facet of the wing, so I’ve been working with many more agencies and squadrons than normal. Even with good planning, there were unprecedented personnel and logistics issues that required informed risk assessments about how to safely proceed.”

The Dyess PHEOs established three areas of pandemic response. The first was to maintain readiness and support contingency operations that arise. The second was to minimize the risk of the virus’ spread. The third was to communicate with the community.

“Thanks to our PHEO, we sustained our mission of delivering airpower with B-1s and C-130s even in the midst of a pandemic,” said Col. Jose "Ed” Sumangil, 7th Bomb Wing commander, Dyess Air Force Base. “These efforts helped us manage risk and minimize the spread to our Airmen, our family members, and to the community.”

From the start of the pandemic, Lee coordinated COVID-19 communications between Dyess and the neighboring Abilene, Texas, community. As Lee explains, building rapport with the community helped the base’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“We are lucky to be situated in Abilene, which is a relatively small community with a stand-alone public health department,” explained Lee. “We coordinated with them every step of the way and were involved in each other’s planning, exercises, and response. We relied on Abilene for a lot of data and contact tracing, which allowed us to slow the spread of infection in a fast, efficient, and systematic way.”

“Ninety percent of our base personnel live in the community, so whatever they do affects us and vice versa,” explained Sumangil, “It takes an experienced officer to understand that and [Lee] did a great job of opening that dialogue.”

PHEOs play a critical role in keeping Airmen safe while ensuring the mission continues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This involves strategic effort and coordination across the base and surrounding communities.

“PHEOs build rapport in many ways,” explained Poel. “They help their commanders with health challenges before there’s a crisis, are knowledgeable of evidence-based, best practices and unknowns concerning the threat, and are able to provide guidance to keep Airmen safe while maintaining the operational mission.”

The Dyes commanders, PHEOs and the local community health officials collectively developed extensive strategic plans, communications and response activities to cohesively mobilize against COVID-19.

“What an unprecedented time for a country,” Sumangil said, praising the “Public health team for keeping it together and helping the leaders on this base to communicate with this community and sustain the mission.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may be edited for length and clarity.  Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

Army Public Health Center provides update on Long COVID risks

Article Around MHS
12/1/2021
COVID19 Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

JTF Coyote begins pediatric COVID-19 clinics as adult booster vaccination numbers increase

Article Around MHS
11/23/2021
Military health personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The Vermont National Guard now supports the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccinations for youth in the 5 to 11 age group and booster clinics for the general adult population.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

MHS Reaches 6 Million Doses of Vaccine Against COVID

Article
11/10/2021
Airmen of the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, receive COVID-19 immunizations as a part of the federal mandate at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, St. Joseph, Missouri, Oct. 2, 2021. The 139th Medical Group oversees the operation. .

Military passes 6 million mark for COVID-19 shots administered across the Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

COVID 19 Vaccine Is Now Available for Children 5 to 11

Article
11/9/2021
5-year-old girl in mask reads a book by herself

COVID-19 vaccines for 5-11 year olds are ready now through MHS

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

More Than 95% of Active Duty Have Received COVID-19 Vaccine

Article
10/15/2021
Female hospital corpsman gives a COVID-19 vaccine injection to a sailor in her left arm

Service members continue to line up for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

USECAF receives insight into COVID19 vaccinations at Reserve wing

Article Around MHS
10/8/2021
Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visits with 433rd Airlift Wing members at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 2, 2021.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visited the 433rd Airlift Wing here to meet with Reserve Citizen Airmen leaders on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Oct. 2, 2021.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

Mask Mouth Does Not Exist, Dentists Say

Article
10/6/2021
A bunch of children wearing face masks walk on a city street.

Mask mouth doesn’t exist, Internet chatter to the contrary, dentists say.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

Compassionate Caring with COVID Vax Commitment

Article Around MHS
10/6/2021
A  female doctor poses for a photo.

When pregnant patients have an appointment with Lt. Cmdr. Megan Northup at Naval Hospital Bremerton, they get more than a qualified and caring OB/GYN physician.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus

COVID-19 Booster Shots are Now Available – What You Need to Know

Article
9/30/2021
Containers of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Each vial contains six doses for vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.

Booster shots are now recommended for millions of people – but many others will have to wait for additional approvals.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Myths & facts about the vax - debunking common COVID-19 vaccine myths

Article
9/29/2021
Myths and facts about the vax

The COVID-19 vaccine has been mandated across the Department of Defense and despite its demonstrated effectiveness and safety, a host of myths have left some Airmen and Guardians hesitant to receive it. While social media posts and some news outlets may make it harder to keep up with what is fact or fiction, the science is clear … approved COVID-19 vaccines work.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Retired colonel leads Fort Irwin COVID response mission

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
Army Col. Richard Hopkins, the COVID-19 response coordinator with Weed Army Community Hospital, collects paperwork from a Soldier who received the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event.

Retired Army Col. Richard Hopkins volunteered under the Army’s COVID-19 Retiree Recall Program to return to service as the COVID-19 response coordinator for Weed Army Community Hospital and Fort Irwin, California.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

ARNORTH military support to FEMA begins in Tennessee, continues in five states

Article Around MHS
9/24/2021
Prepared COVID-19 vaccine shots wait to be administered to an Airman. Members of the 134th Air Refueling Wing were eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccines during Unit Training Assembly here May 2nd, 2021.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approximately 20 military medical personnel deployed to Tennessee to support civilian healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients in local hospitals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

COVID-19 can lead to long-term health concerns

Article Around MHS
9/23/2021
Debra Lamb, a 30-year civil service veteran at Ft. Carson, contracted the COVID-19 virus late in 2020 and experienced a harrowing ordeal before partially recovering months later.

Debra Lamb, a 30-year civil service veteran at Ft. Carson, contracted the COVID-19 virus late in 2020 and experienced a harrowing ordeal before partially recovering months later.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

DODEA Schools Keeps On With In-Person Classes, and Fall Sports, Too

Article
9/23/2021
Kids playing football

DODEA schools are striving to continue in-person learning in the 2021-22 school year.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 59

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.