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In times of crisis, heroes emerge

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark A. Winklosky
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- Throughout U.S. history, Americans have always risen to challenges and stepped up to the plate in times of crisis when needed most. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic crisis is no different. 

There are numerous stories of businesses and individuals answering the Nation’s call once again. Reserve Citizen Airmen of the U.S. Air Force Reserve play a unique dual role in this time of crisis, many having both military and civilian responsibilities that require them to be on the front lines of this unprecedented fight against COVID-19. Steel Airmen from the 911th Airlift Wing in Pittsburgh have their stories to tell as well.

Although many folks are teleworking from their homes, many reservists working in their civilian capacities are working behind the scenes and around the clock, serving Americans the only way they know how.

“What I love about Citizen Airmen is everyone has a story that makes the Reserves such a unique group of people,” said Col. John Robinson, 911th Airlift Wing commander.

Take, for instance, Master Sgt. Justin Heinrich, who works for the 911th Logistics Readiness Squadron as a ground transportation specialist when serving in his military capacity. However, as a civilian he manages the emergency room at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He is working 18-hour days because several staff members have been quarantined after being exposed to the virus.

“My family and I are in good health and spirits,” said Heinrich. “Although it’s a challenge for my wife being home with our four children, we are managing.”

From the 911th Security Forces Squadron, Master Sgt. Morgan Campbell works in the Plans and Programs office. In her civilian position, she works as a registered nurse at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center East in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. There she works in a very busy department.

According to Campbell, she, along with some colleagues and a doctor, developed a plan and process to streamline people concerned they may have the virus.

“The process allows for those individuals to get in and out quickly or be admitted quickly to ensure others’ health are not compromised in the hospital,” she said.

Campbell also talked about one patient in particular who really sticks out to her, a recently diagnosed 34-year-old gentleman who, though quite young, was having severe difficulty breathing. He confessed to Campbell as his nurse that he was afraid.

“These individuals are all alone they aren’t allowed any visitors by their side,” she explained. “I stayed in the room with him the whole time, a bit scared myself, but he said it made him feel more at ease having someone to talk to.  He told me if I was scared I could step out, but I know if I was in his situation I wouldn’t want to be alone.”

The patient was quickly admitted to the intensive care unit and treated. His story, however has a happy ending.

“I am happy to say he was recently discharged home. He and so many people come in scared, and we are on the frontlines right by their side!” said Campbell.

Two other 911th SFS members are Tech. Sgt. Michael Scuillo and Staff Sgt. Cody Smith. Both members not only work together during Unit Training Assemblies, but they also work together as civilians at the Butler County Prison in Butler, Pennsylvania.

Both Airmen are still working around the clock with their civilian colleagues. According to Scuillo, there are zero cases of COVID-19 at the Butler County Prison due to pre-shift screenings for every person who steps inside the building, as well as other health precautions the prison has taken to keep everyone safe.

These are only a handful of stories highlighting Reserve Citizen Airmen and how they continue to serve in any capacity their nation asks of them. There are many other dual-hatted heroes all across the country, standing side-by side with their civilian teammates on the front lines, as they work together to protect and serve their fellow Americans during this pandemic.

Just take a look around or watch the news and you will most likely see one of these heroes in action. You may only have to look in the mirror.