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AFSOC leadership addresses COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lynette Rolen
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

As the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus is impacting the world, Air Force Special Operations Command is adjusting how operations are conducted in order to protect Air Commandos. 

“As we navigate COVID-19 together, we will keep our Air Commandos safe while still accomplishing our mission.” said Col. Leigh Swanson, AFSOC command surgeon. “Our leadership is dedicated to caring for all our members and their families during this time.”

Many Air Commandos experienced a change in the “normal” way AFSOC’s mission is carried out due to the precautionary measures put in place. 

“We’ve seen some leaders utilizing daily text check-ins, phone calls, video chats, and other methods to remain operational while safely staying in touch with their Airmen,” said Swanson. “We encouraged our leaders in the squadrons, wings and groups to use any achievable measure to protect their people.”

Leaders at the wing, squadron, group and unit level were empowered by Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of AFSOC, to make workplace decisions for their Airmen.

“We will sustain readiness for that which only AFSOC can do,” said Slife. “This includes support to contingency operations, crisis response, Special Tactics, flying training and specialized combat support.”

With the support of AFSOC's Surgeon General Office, individual unit commanders issued specific guidance and a way forward for their Air Commandos.

“Our first priority is enabling the commanders to ensure the safety of their Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Michael Renkas, AFSOC’s lead public health officer. “Our office is working with the field units to ensure everyone has the most up-to-date guidance and the medical teams have what they need to take care of their patients if we have an increased demand due to COVID-19.”

The 1st Special Operations Wing Medical Group here at Hurlburt Field, Florida, generated a separate medical tent to provide care while minimizing contact between patients and care providers.

“The 1st SOMDG’s drive-up testing is the perfect example of Air Commandos doing what they do best - finding a way to get the mission done,” said Renkas. “Likewise the 27th SOMDG established a public health information line and have fielded a few thousand calls to date. All our medics continue to accomplish their primary mission while protecting as many Airmen as possible.” 

As COVID-19 continues, AFSOC’s mission will continue. 

“I am incredibly impressed with, and proud of, the leadership and decision-making we see across all of AFSOC during this pandemic crisis,” said Slife in a letter to AFSOC leaders. “Thank you for doing that which AFSOC does best…sort through chaos to make the mission happen.”