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COVID-19 reshapes December UTA, mission continues

Master Sgt. Glen Macher provides training to Airmen who are scheduled to deploy next year during the 167th Airlift Wing’s December unit training assembly, Dec. 5, 2020. Deployment and medical readiness tasks were prioritized and Airmen were encouraged to find alternative ways to complete other requirements to limit the number of Airmen on base during the UTA weekend.

Master Sgt. Glen Macher provides training to Airmen who are scheduled to deploy next year during the 167th Airlift Wing’s December unit training assembly, Dec. 5, 2020. Deployment and medical readiness tasks were prioritized and Airmen were encouraged to find alternative ways to complete other requirements to limit the number of Airmen on base during the UTA weekend. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --

A typical drill weekend in December for the 167th Airlift Wing is filled with training on Saturday and holiday festivities for Airmen and their families on Sunday.

But not this year.

With the installation’s health protection conditions at an elevated status due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases locally, Airmen were encouraged to find alternate ways to complete their training and various other requirements. 

Col. Marty Timko, 167th Airlift Wing commander, issued guidance limiting drill attendance with an emphasis on deployment and medical readiness tasks.

“The key to all of this will be communication. The pandemic is forcing us to think outside of our standard UTA weekend construct. We can still get valuable readiness training accomplished, we will just do it in a manner of smaller groups and more days within the month,” Timko said.

But the wing’s mission continues despite limited on-base drill attendance, telework arrangements, and alternate schedules encouraged for the full-time staff.

“We have continued to launch the active duty missions throughout the pandemic,” said Col. Christopher Sigler, 167th Operations Group commander.

Two of the wing’s eight C-17 Globemaster aircraft are currently dedicated to active duty missions. As the aircrews fly missions around the globe they are required to comply with the different rules and regulations of each individual country and base that they transit, Sigler explained.

Local flying training and flight simulator training has been reduced enough to maintain aircrew currency while minimizing on-base manning.

As some Airmen carry on the normal operations of the base, others continue to support the state’s on-going COVID-19 response efforts.

Approximately 70 Airmen from the 167th are assisting the response efforts in various ways to include COVID-19 testing lane support, epidemiology support at local health departments, facility disinfection, and research and analysis.

Additionally, the wing's public health team continues its efforts to educate unit members on the latest CDC guidance and tracking Airmen who have COVID-19 sympoms, Airmen who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive or is symptomatic, and Airmen who have traveled in a military status overseas or into the Department of Defense's identified red states.

The public health team has conducted more than 5,700 contacts through their tracing efforts to help combat the spread of the virus at the wing.

Please visit the 167th Public Health Office’s COVID-19 Sharepoint site for COVID-19 related guidance, announcements, links and documents: https://cs2.eis.af.mil/sites/13877/SitePages/COVID-19.aspx