The Air Force’s top officer has ordered the service’s major command commanders to focus their attention on essential missions and tasks as the United States braces for additional travel restrictions and other efforts meant to curb the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading.
The goal is to repurpose personnel who are working less critical missions toward working in mission-critical areas, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said during an April 1 teleconference hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
“That’s not just something you do with a flip of a switch,” Goldfein said. “There are all kinds of individual decisions that are associated with that bigger decision.”
The “reset” will be performed across the service to ensure it can protect its combat and intelligence gathering missions, particularly overseas in countries that have reported widespread cases of the novel coronavirus, such as Italy and Germany.
The Air Force has to keep aircraft flying in those areas and must protect its flight crews, Goldfein noted. “Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, has not stopped flying airplanes; they have not been given relief,” he said. “They need things to keep those airplanes going. It’s a level 3 country – how do you do that? We need to have a way to get those aircraft in and out of Italy.”
Goldfein said he has faith in his wing commanders to make the right decisions for their individual bases when it comes to social distancing guidelines and how to manage testing, training and other efforts. Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma doesn’t look like Goodfellow AFB, Texas, he noted. And those bases differ from overseas bases such as Kunsan AB, South Korea, or Ramstein AB, Germany.
“A one-size-fits-all approach for every installation is doomed to fail,” he said. As of Tuesday evening, the Air Force has reported 344 positive cases of COVID-19 across its personnel. That includes 214 active duty cases – 32 more than were reported Tuesday – 62 civilian cases – two more than Tuesday – 52 dependents and 16 contractors. Of those 322 cases, 25 individuals have been hospitalized and 24 individuals have recovered from the illness.