JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Aircrew and aeromedical evacuation Airmen at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. initiated the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System May 2, 2020, in Ramstein, Germany.
The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with highly contagious diseases from one location to another via aeromedical evacuation, and ramstein was selected as a COVID-19 staging point
“The staging area included over 100 deployed Airmen from all across the country,” said Capt. Jeremy Johnson, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot assigned to the 16th Airlift Squadron. “The Airmen were from more than six duty stations and more than 11 Air Force Specialty Codes.”
According to Johnson, the staging area for the AE crews was secure and isolated in order to decrease the likelihood of contamination of other members of the base populous.
“We worked alongside Airmen form the 10th [Aeromedical Evacuation Flight] to set up a centralized AE site,” said Johnson. “The intent was to mitigate any possible spread of the outbreak with aircrews being in close proximity with COVID-positive patients. The building we utilized was an old fire station. We dusted off the computers and set everything up almost from the ground up. “
Planners form both Air Mobility Command and U.S. Transportation Command developed a patient movement plan for patients with COVID-19.
“My stage management team and I were able to set up the area and get it off the ground in the first 45 days before being relieved by personnel from Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst,” said Johnson. “By the time I left, we had evacuated 77 COVID-positive patients over 11 missions, most of which were from forward deployed bases. Of those 77, three were in critical and one in urgent condition.”
According to Johnson, The Team Charleston Airmen were able to demonstrate the viability and safety of the TIS and at the end of their 45-day operation; none of the Airmen tested positive for COVID-19.
“In the back of my mind I knew it was possible to contract the virus, but every possible precaution was taken and everyone was very professional,” said Johnson. “Everyone selected to do this was the best at their jobs. We didn’t have any aircrew or AE personnel test positive at the end of the 45-day operation.”