62nd MDS public health Airmen help move the mission forward

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 62nd Medical Squadron (62nd MDS) Public Health section is one of about 20 within the McChord Clinic that contributes to the health and well-being of McChord Airmen, dependents and retirees on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Public health is responsible for approving people for deployments, occupational health and, more recently, contact tracing for positive COVID-19 cases of McChord Airmen, including both the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings (AW), their dependents and Air Force civilian personnel.

When the 62nd AW went to mission-essential manning in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most sections in the McChord Clinic began teleworking and continue to do so. However, due to the nature of what the public health section does, they continued working at the clinic the whole time.

“It’s just kind of the nature of public health and the medical squadron that we are ready for anything,” said Master Sgt. Benjamin Aldridge, 62nd MDS Public Health flight chief.

Within public health is the deployment health section, which provides a medical deployment checklist with everything necessary to be medically cleared to deploy, including immunizations and labs. They also issue waivers for situations such as mental health to make sure if someone were to have a crisis while deployed, their deployment site would have resources to help them.

Deployment health has also been reviewing leave requests for Airmen and determining if it is necessary to recommend restriction of movement (ROM) after they return. They compare wherever people are taking leave to case numbers in Pierce County, and decide from there if it’s necessary for them to restrict movement and self-monitor for symptoms when they return from leave. This can be a challenge as case numbers in different counties change daily. This process is normally handled by personnel at Madigan Army Hospital, but due to the volume of COVID-19 cases, the public health section at the McChord Clinic have taken over this process for Airmen.

Another subsect of public health is the occupational health office. They are responsible for issuing exercise profiles for pregnancies, conducting audiograms and visiting different shops across base to ensure Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliancy.

“I’ve learned a lot about environmental factors and toxins specific to different career fields,” said Staff Sgt. Brianna Suckoo, 62nd MDS Public Health technician. “We usually do shop visits for career fields that are exposed regularly to anything harmful and then recommend measures and trainings to help limit exposure and the risk to Airmen’s health.”

An added responsibility of the public health section, which began in March 2020, is contact tracing for COVID-19 cases.

“When we are notified by Madigan of a positive COVID test of an Airmen, it’s an all hands on deck situation,” said Staff Sgt. Kim Springer, 62nd MDS Force Health NCO in charge.

Contact tracing has to be done as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours, to figure out who or where someone contracted the virus and limit further spread of the disease.

In addition to all these responsibilities, public health provides prevention and risk mitigation recommendations to all of Team McChord.

“We do our best to keep our Airmen healthy from preventable diseases while at home or abroad, mitigate occupational health risks, and ensure that the entirety of our population has healthy food and clean water to eat and drink,” said Capt. Melissa Jordan, 62nd MDS Aerospace Medicine flight commander. “Our goal is to keep our warfighters as healthy as possible so that they can stay actively engaged in the fight.”