One Year Under the Pandemic

  • Published
  • By Col. Keith Williams
  • 136th Airlift Wing

It has been one year since the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted our nation and the world. If you recall we canceled drill in March 2020 in order to take stock of the situation and set up telework and other countermeasures. That’s also when Col McGraw retired and I took over wing command. It’s hard to believe it has been one year already, and oh how much we have done!

As I reflect on the past year, I recall the uncertainty in our society on how best to handle the novel coronavirus that landed on our shores. One thing pressing item that comes to mind is the immediate question of how the Texas National Guard would react. The Adjutant General had immediately conferred with Governor Abbott and then with all of the senior leaders of the Texas Military Department. It was decided the Guard would assist with facility assessments to determine where COVID patients could safely be treated. Our Civil Engineer Squadron stepped up to do just that. The Army National Guard was called upon to assist with making N95 masks in a local North Texas factory. It was determined Food Banks would need our help and more than ninety 136AW Citizen Airmen found themselves serving their community at the Tarrant Area Food Bank. We were then called upon to form Mobile Testing Teams to administer COVID-19 tests to our fellow citizens. Most of our people were called to fill a mission in El Paso and the surrounding area. Our Security Forces Airmen were activated to serve on Civil Disobedience Operations in Dallas and Austin. The year 2020 was also an active storm season. Task Force Eagle was called upon to respond to Hurricane Laura that threatened Southeast Texas and ultimately decimated much of Southern Louisiana. TF Eagle is made up of the 136th Contingency Response Flight, Aerial Porters, Security Forces, and other augmentees who provide airlift ground operations at various airports affected by the storms.

We did all of the above while also deploying our service members to overseas locations for RCP04, AEF7 and EDI. I’m happy to report all of our deployed members from RCP04 and AEF7 have safely returned home. The EDI mission is ongoing and our 254th Combat Communications Group members are doing great work on those missions.

So much more continues to challenge this wing. The Winter Storm Response was a testament to our individual resilience. TMD is also tackling the challenges with vaccinating our Texas citizens. We have more than 45 Citizen Airmen currently serving on Task Force Vaccination. Go Guard!

Speaking of COVID Mitigation, even though Governor Abbott has announced the mask mandate is lifted in the state of Texas, the SecDef has declared employees and visitors to federal property and installations are still required to wear masks and physically distance.

To that end, the 136th Airlift Wing will continue the same COVID-19 mitigation measures we have been practicing throughout the past year. We will continue to limit points of entry into our buildings, conduct temperature screening, sign-in for contact tracing, physically distance, wear a mask when not isolated in a work area, and encourage good hygiene practices.

Make the most of your time on duty and stay up to speed on the myriad of readiness requirements. Be proactive in letting your chain of command know what you need. I am honored to serve alongside all of you.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be strong.