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NEWS | April 13, 2020

Guard commander leads COVID-19 response in civilian role

By Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker 103rd Airlift Wing

HARTFORD, Conn. – Tractor-trailers began arriving at the Connecticut Convention Center shortly after 7:00 a.m. Saturday, and Connecticut National Guard members quickly set up over 600 beds should hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Leading the operation was a face familiar to many members of the Guard, but he was not in uniform for this particular project.

U.S. Air Force Col. Sean Brennan, 103rd Medical Group commander, works full time as a physician assistant-certified with Hartford HealthCare, and is now Hartford Hospital’s operations manager for alternative care sites. Brennan is one of many medical professionals in the Guard helping their communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in their civilian health care professions.

“It’s a little hard being a civilian today because I’d like to be in uniform working, too,” said Brennan. “But even in this role, I’m able to work well with the military personnel because I know most of the people here on the Army and Air side.”

The work his fellow Guard members are performing is vital to the state’s response to the pandemic, said Brennan.

“The bed needs for the state of Connecticut has been projected to be 7,500 and the hospitals alone do not have nearly that many beds available,” Brennan said. “So this facility is crucial for the Hartford region to have enough beds available in case we do have the surge.”

The extra capacity will allow hospitals to dedicate their existing space to patients in need of more intensive treatment while providing care to recovering patients at overflow sites like this, said Brennan.

“We don’t know yet how long we’ll need it, but we’re anticipating the surge and want to be prepared for it instead of being behind,” said Brennan.

The planning itself was intense for Brennan’s team – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and hospital staff both evaluated the site to determine its suitability and the hospital prepared multiple blueprints to find the most optimal layout.

Seeing familiar faces from his civilian and military careers come together to execute the plans makes the process worth the hundreds of man hours, said Brennan.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Brennan. “This is a project that cannot be done by Hartford HealthCare alone – we depend on the support from the Guard. They do these things quite routinely, and our job right now is to get out of the way and let them do their job, and they’re doing it beautifully.”



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