JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —
Joint Base Charleston participated in a three-day public health emergency exercise Nov. 7-9, testing the base’s capability to respond to a biological virus outbreak.
As the host base for two airlift wings responsible for providing a significant portion of Air Mobility Command’s global reach capability, members of Joint Base Charleston who deliver that capability have the potential to be exposed to a wide range of viruses while performing their missions. This exercise was held to prepare base units to respond to potential outbreaks after the return of units exposed to viruses.
“In the exercise scenario an aircrew returned from overseas with this virus. They went to a base picnic, spreading the disease,” said Maj. Emily Dietrich, 628th Medical Group (MDG) pharmacy flight commander. “Once noticing the mass flu-like symptoms, we spent the second day setting up a disease containment plan as well as learning as much about the disease as we could. On Wednesday, we executed the plan by establishing a Point of Distribution (POD).”
The purpose of a POD is to provide mass vaccinations or medication during biological incidents. POD exercises are performed biannually to test how quickly the base responds.
With flu season underway, the 628th MDG needed to provide Team Charleston members their flu shots and the POD provided them with the perfect venue to do that. The 628th MDG vaccinated more than 1,000 people in a single day and individuals received candy to simulate the medication they would be given in a real world situation.
“Executing the flu vaccine with the exercise was like killing two birds with one stone,” said Master Sgt. Deanna Shore-Rees, 628th MDG dental flight chief. “Because the exercise required a great deal of participation from the base populace already and the annual flu vaccine was due for all military members, it seemed the obvious and practical decision was to do them together.”
To conduct an exercise of this size required participation from numerous agencies across the base.
“From when we first started planning the exercise to actually executing it took about six months,” said Capt. Allen Hauser, 628th MDG pharmacy element chief. “Thanks to the 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron, the 628th Security Forces Squadron, all sections of the 628th MDG and members of the 628th Air Base Wing Inspector General team, they were able to make the exercise run smoothly. Outside groups like Roper St. Francis Hospital the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Medical University of South Carolina and the Veterans Administration were beyond helpful in the planning stage.”
Joint Base Charleston is one of the largest mobility bases on the East Coast with a 63,000 patient reach in Charleston, South Carolina. Having this reach requires preparation for these possible situations.
“I think that the POD was conducted as efficiently and as safely as we possibly could,” said Hauser. “I couldn’t be more proud of everyone who was involved in the exercise. Their help made the exercise as simple as it possibly could have been.”