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The show must go on: maintaining mission readiness amidst COVID-19

Two Airmen from Public Health stand in front a computer wearing face masks

Master Sgt. Tanya Borges and Tech. Sgt. Jenna Bouley, 102nd Intelligence Wing Public Health technicians, look over slides for a public health presentation April 17, 2020, Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass. Public Health members throughout the Massachusetts National Guard have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by establishing plans and procedures for disease containment. They continue to implement preventative health measures for the well-being of military members and civilians. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Bonnie Blakely)

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --

The potential for national emergencies such as weather events, earthquakes, or in this case, a global pandemic to create logistical challenges, are significant. It is critical that organizations train and prepare for every contingency to ensure maximum effectiveness during even the most austere of conditions.

The 102nd Intelligence Wing is no exception. As both an Air Force and Air National Guard unit, and an integral part of the Massachusetts National Guard, the 102nd is playing a pivotal role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unit must also simultaneously ensure that it’s federal mission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) remains at the highest levels of resiliency and effectiveness.

“Certainly, our reality has changed significantly in the past few weeks,” said Col. David McNulty, 102nd Intelligence Wing commander. “The wing is currently providing support to state and local authorities and sending out more Airmen as they need us. In the meantime, we’re doing our best to maintain our readiness to perform it’s full range of missions.”

It is the Airmen of the wing that ensure this level of readiness.

From the high levels of training they receive, to the effectiveness they display through practice; to the most rudimentary tasks of hand washing, personal hygiene and social distancing; each Airmen knows and executes their responsibilities to ensure mission accomplishment.

The 102IW has implemented telework to the maximum extent possible. For those who can’t work remotely due to the security or hands-on-nature of their jobs, the base has created shift schedules to ensure social distancing and follow other CDC best practices.

“First and foremost, our priority is to keep the Airmen of the 102nd Intelligence Wing and their families safe,” McNulty said. “We remain active in our home-station duties that include performing federal Title 10 missions. Those mission-essential tasks have not changed. We still need to conduct them.”

Airmen in the 102nd ISR Group continue to work around the clock on taskings halfway around the world.

“By employing a variety of innovative social distancing techniques, the Airmen of the 102nd ISR Group have seamlessly continued to support operations across the globe,” said Col. Sean Riley, 102nd ISR Group commander.

A critical part of the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System, the 102nd ISR Group provides continuous intelligence analysis to combatant commands worldwide. Airmen assigned to this unit produce actionable intelligence from data collected from a variety of sensors on the U-2, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper and other ISR platforms.

The importance of these missions means that operations must continue.

Airmen need to be focused. The need for completing routine administrative tasks doesn't stop because there is a global pandemic. During this time, the 102nd Force Support Flight is supporting Airmen in a variety of ways.

“We’ve had to figure out how to adapt our way of doing business to continue to support the wing’s Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Kristen Moulis, 102nd FSF commander. “We continue to process military and civilian personnel actions with little to no interruption via virtual processing. We’ve modified our processes to provide remote support to customer service, assignments, accessions, promotions, reenlistments, extensions, in and out processing and new-hire orientations.”

The 102nd FSF has also implemented the use of the online ID card office. Airmen can update their own expiring credentials remotely, which gives them continued access to the DoD network without visiting the base, Moulis said.

The move saves time for both the Airmen as well as for force support personnel.

With basic military training and technical schools being considered mission essential, the need for processing Airmen for these trips is a task that the Base Training Office continues to meet.

The office also continues to manage state and active-duty tuition assistance since many Airmen are taking advantage of on-line courses during this time.

The Services team is managing dormitories that are being utilized by mission essential Airmen supporting in-garrison deployments and Security Forces Airmen and Military Police Soldiers who are assisting at a field hospital that has been set up to care for residents recovering from COVID-19.

Ultimately, the 102nd Force Support Flight mission hasn’t stopped or even slowed, because the wing’s Airmen continue to meet the mission they are charged with, during the challenges of the ‘new normal’.

Mission support group Airmen keep our installation running. Whether it’s infrastructure managed and maintained by our civil engineers and base communications personnel, air base ground defense by our security forces defenders, or coordination of resources by our logistics readiness flight, these Airmen join with the FSF to ensure the wing is ready and able to complete its mission 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“We’re all in this thing together, and we have to depend on one another,” McNulty said.