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NEWS | April 16, 2021

167th Airmen are force multipliers in fight against COVID-19

By Senior Airman Edward Michon, 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Approximately 60 Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing are supporting COVID-19 relief efforts throughout West Virginia, a key component in the fight against the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, the 167th Airmen joined West Virginia National Guard members supporting multiple targeted task forces whose mission sets have evolved as response needs have changed.

Task Force Medical-East has shifted its focus from COVID-19 testing to administering the vaccine at vaccine clinics in the region.

The epidemiology team of Task Force Medical, originally responsible for contact tracing, is now also providing administrative support at the vaccine clinics.

“My folks did a great job of adjusting to the change in mission,” said Maj. Blake Bennett, officer in charge of the epidemiology team.

Bennett’s team, along with other task forces, are now assisting in a drive-thru mass vaccination site at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. This clinic, open every Tuesday and Thursday, is replacing previous smaller clinics throughout the panhandle.

Airmen are also supporting Task Force Vaccines at Distribution Hub 5 in Berkeley County. This team has distributed approximately 140,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since December, according to Maj. Terrence Etuk, officer in charge of Distribution Hub 5.

Etuk’s team is also distributing the vaccines given during clinics at the 167th, such as the one hosted in the base dining facility by members of Task Force Medical-East April 11 during April’s unit training assembly.

By the conclusion of April’s UTA, over one-third of wing members had been voluntarily vaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most effective way to control the virus is to build herd immunity through vaccination; thus Airmen are encouraged to get vaccinated.

“Today is an important day for you to make decisions for your health, for your family, for others, the nation, the economy,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Kevin Culbert, 167th Medical Group commander. “And it really hinges upon the vaccine that we are lucky enough to be able to provide to our forces.”

Culbert said the 95% effectiveness of the vaccine is another reason to get vaccinated.

“This is the real thing,” said Culbert. “We have never had vaccines of any sort with that high effectiveness.”