Managing a new mission, a pandemic and the flu season at the 156th Wing

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Brandon Patterson
  • 156th Wing/Public Affairs

During the regularly scheduled drill weekend in November at the 156th Wing, leadership took the opportunity to focus on ensuring Airmen receive their flu vaccination and assess wing protocols for safeguarding members during the new normal, in light of COVID-19.

The military has an old adage of “people first, mission always,” and there’s nothing more important than accomplishing the mission, besides taking care of people. Col. Pete Boone, the 156th Wing commander, addressed all of his commanders and chiefs during a staff meeting where he recast his vision and priorities. In spite of COVID-19, the wing is still in the midst of a mission conversion and has a mission to accomplish.

“When we are called for duty, we have to continue to be ready; ready to respond, ready to meet the needs of our country and bring the full strength of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard,” said Boone. “That means encouraging our Airmen to continue doing what they can to protect themselves, their health and the health of their families.”

For all military members, measuring and assessing tactical risk is something taught from day one. The job of balancing the mission/people scale is an ongoing process that PRANG leadership places as a paramount priority. As soon as COVID-19 became a realization, Col. Boone and all PRANG leadership heavily leaned into the advice and knowledge of 156th Medical Group public health experts, to ensure they were taking care of the members and focusing on safety.

Brig. Gen. Travis Acheson, the assistant adjutant general-air, Puerto Air National Guard and Brig. Gen. Paul Loiselle, the deputy commander of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, both stressed the importance of not growing complacent, as complacency is the enemy, and they also stressed following public health guidelines. They emphasized the importance of setting the standard and being the example for Airmen. Each and every leader has the responsibility to set the example of wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, washing hands regularly, not congregating in large groups, and these safety measures apply on and off duty.

In addition to taking COVID-19 precautions as we enter flu season, the medical group devised a strategic plan to administer the flu vaccination over the drill weekend. They set up five locations around the base to administer the vaccine in order to alleviate congregations of Airmen.

“Getting the flu vaccine this year is more important than ever,” said Lt. Col. Ana Rivera, the 156th Medical Group public health officer. “In order to protect yourself, your family and your community from the flu, receiving the flu vaccine this season can also help to reduce the burden on our healthcare system as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to save medical resources.”

If any of our PRANG members have any questions about the flu vaccine or COVID-19, please contact the 156th MDG Public Health Office at 787-253-5203.