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Military Health System

Malmstrom AFB airmen battle COVID-19, execute the mission

Image of Soldier wearing protective gear leaning into a car to chat with other soldier. Air Force Staff Sgt. Whitney Rabbitt, 341st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of community health, speaks with an airman in the base clinic’s COVID-19 drive thru Dec. 3, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Brosam)

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COVID-19 has had serious impacts all across the world. Whether requiring changes in processes and interactions, or temporarily cutting them all together, the airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana have learned to remain fluid in order to execute the wing’s global mission.

“It has definitely been difficult,” explained Air Force Staff Sgt. Whitney Rabbitt, 341st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, noncommissioned officer in charge of community health. “It has been a hard transition the last 9 months or so. We have had to figure out a process to deal with it all. We have done a lot of trial and errors. I think we’re dealing with it the best we can. Every day is a new learning experience for us.”

“We have adjusted to the best of our ability. I think every day we get a little bit better. We try to talk amongst ourselves to actually see what we can do for our process improvements within COVID-19 screenings, COVID-19 interviews and our everyday procedures. Sometimes one section has to help out the other section and vice versa. I think we have done a really good job on adjusting,” she continued.

“A lot of times we do come in for very long hours. Working on the holidays, we get called in on the weekends. Sometimes we’re pulling ten days straight on a weekend, and that’s Saturdays and Sundays.”

Rabbitt continued, “The Air Force has always pushed resiliency as much as possible and I think that we’ve really executed resiliency within public health because we know we’re going to be working long days and on the weekends. I think in order to be resilient we have to work that out in our personal lives in order to execute the mission for our professional lives with COVID-19.”

“I think leaning on each other a lot and knowing that we all have each other at the end of the day, whether it be at work to help us out if we’re getting overwhelmed or even at home if we have had a really bad day, we can always unwind with each other and talk to each other and know that we each have each other’s backs.”

“That’s what has really helped us get through the last nine months out of this year dealing with the heavy tempo” she explained. “I think we kind of realize we are all in this together, and once we are in it together and we realize that, it really sets us up for success as far as getting through the mission.”

“We’ve grown a lot within the last few months especially when we started to get our positive (cases) in the middle of summer,” reflected Rabbitt. “I think that really helped us grow into what we have become now. We’ve become a really cohesive team and I think that’s helped us to continue to execute the mission as much as possible, in a timely fashion. I think that has really set us up for success in the long run.”

“Our COVID-19 drive thru we have here at the (medical) group is for all of our retirees, dependents, all active duty members, contractors and GS employees,” Rabbitt continued. “I think making sure they are safe, healthy and that we’re mitigating the risk of spreading it to all of our mission essential personnel is really important.”

“We want to make sure we aren’t spreading COVID-19 around (the MAF) because they are in close quarters,” she said. “They are all like one big family out there. We want to mitigate the risk with them, so testing their friends and counterparts and testing them before they deploy out to the MAF is helping us reduce any type of exposure. The whole point of public health is to prevent any type of spread. The whole point of the missile alert facility is making sure our (assets) are protected and making sure the mission can go on.”

Rabbitt concluded, “So if we are testing and protecting all of our mission essential personnel, then our mission can go on. That is why it is so important for us to have this COVID-19 drive thru and to make sure anyone who is symptomatic or a contact of a positive gets tested so we can definitely lessen that exposure, lessen that risk and keep the mission flowing.”

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