An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Vice Chairman recognizes Reserve’s ‘COVID Commandos’

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- During his press conference April 9, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized a group of Reserve Citizen Airmen medical professionals from the 445th Airlift Wing here who refer to themselves as the “COVID Commandos.”

With little notice, Col. (Dr.) Hans Otto, the commander of the 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, and six nurses from the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, left Wright-Patterson Air Force Base April 5 to aid the COVID-19 support effort in New York City.

“Just four days ago, on the fifth of April, this team of one doctor and six nurses packed their bags, said goodbye to their families and deployed to New York with 24 hours’ notice,” Hyten said. “Incredibly, one of those seven, Lt. Jennifer Gerritsen, only had six hours’ notice when one of the original team members was unable to make it.

“Their deployment is part of a larger mobilization package of more than 1,000 Reserve medical professionals from across the nation deployed to New York over the last few days in support of COVID-19 response to take care of their fellow Americans.”

The team is currently assigned to Lincoln Hospital.

Gerritsen was covering a 12-hour overnight shift in the intensive care unit at Wright-Patterson Medical Center near Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, when she first learned she might be deployed.

“They called me during the shift and asked if I was willing to go, and I said yes,” she said. “I thought I would leave on Monday.

She finished her shift at 6 a.m. on Sunday and went home to her family. Three hours later, she got another call.

“When I hung up the phone, I just looked over at my husband and told him, ‘They want me to leave today,’” she said. “He immediately said, ‘Let’s get you packed.’”

“She was on the plane that afternoon – on her way to New York – and the next day, she’s going to work in a New York City hospital,” Hyten said.

The general praised all of the Reservists who left their normal lives at home and answered the call to go to work in one of the Corona virus hot spots.

“These are a few examples of the sacrifices Citizen Airmen and Citizen Soldiers are making in order to fight and improve the lives of Americans,” he said.

(1st Lt. Rachel Ingram contributed to this story)