HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – In a small office at the 66th Medical Squadron, a team of six Airmen work to ensure the health of the community through preventative medicine.
The Public Health team tracks immunizations of deployers around the world, and educates the base community on healthy habits. They work hand-in-hand with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and monitor news from the World Health Organization, tracking hazards before they come through the gate.
When the threat of COVID-19 became a reality earlier this year, the Public Health team was braced to fight it.
“We are prevention-oriented; that’s how we work,” said Tech. Sgt. Yesenia Benjamin, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 66 MDS Public Health element. “We had already been establishing a foundation in the weeks prior, so we had something solid to build on.”
Public health professionals train annually on preventing, identifying, tracking and containing infectious diseases. It was this training that helped the team transition from simulations to a real world health emergency response.
“In the beginning, we had to take a step back and figure out what the priorities were for Team Hanscom and for the Air Force,” said Airman 1st Class Brett Einsidler, 66 MDS public health technician. “It shook us for a moment, but we were prepared to respond.”
Benjamin said that it was difficult not to be intimidated at the start of the crisis, but her leadership reminded her that they would flex as a team, triumphing together.
“They really assured us that we could look at our wingmen and say, ‘I’ve got your back, and I know you’ve got mine,’” she said.
Through the long hours, the public health team is making sure to keep their wingmen resilient by reminding each other why they chose to serve.
“We have a lot of passion—for the people, for the section and for the program,” said Einsidler. “Making sure the people are safe is what it’s about.”
Benjamin said watching her team adapt to the daily demands of response has been a comfort is such uncertain times, and that the outpouring of community support for the medical team has not gone unnoticed.
“We’ve never felt as supported as we do right now,” she said.
Members of the public health team are asking that personnel and other members of the base community trust that the health of the installation has been, and always will be, their number one priority.
“To our brothers and sisters in arms, know that we’re doing everything we can to keep you and your families safe in the best way we know how,” said Benjamin. “We’re caring for your family the same way we’d take care of our own.”