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Home : News
NEWS | June 11, 2020

SCNG medical technicians support COVID-19 response

By Lt. Col. Jim St. Clair 169th Fighter Wing

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. – Two U.S. Air National Guard Airmen with the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) have been working on the leading edge of South Carolina’s medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jennifer Wagner and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Heller, 169th Medical Group aerospace medical technicians, have been on active duty orders since early May working across the state to augment local authorities’ medical response to COVID-19.

Wagner, a nurse during the week at the VA Medical Center in Morehead City, North Carolina, first responded to a COVID-19 hotspot at the Allendale Correctional Institution. U.S. Air Force Col. Phillip Latham, SCANG state air surgeon, organized a joint team of Army and Air National Guard medical technicians to assist the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

“We went in as a joint team and looked at what [Allendale] was doing and how they were doing it as far as screening, and then we let them know what needed changing,” Wagner said.

For example, Wagner advised the prison personnel on sanitation protocols, handwashing and cross-contamination hazards.

“Every day, we would go in and screen [inmates]. We did temperature checks, pulses and oxygen levels. Over the course of the mission, we performed over 35,000 screenings,” she added.

While supporting the facility for three weeks, there were no new COVID-19 cases for 18 days.

Wagner said this collaborative model between the National Guard and the Department of Corrections is being replicated this month at the Kirkland and Evans Correctional Institutions.

Wagner is now working with the South Carolina National Guard’s new Medical Strike Team to test people for the coronavirus at hotspots across the state. On June 9, the team tested 500 people at a test site at Great Falls Elementary School.

Heller recently returned from a successful mission helping South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers deliver meals to people in Horry County and Myrtle Beach.

Heller, who is a nurse at Lexington Medical Center, partnered with U.S. Army Pvt. Noah Nakagawa, South Carolina Army National Guard medic, to provide medical support to Joint Task Force 59.

“The mission was to feed the community. When the school systems shut down, they still needed to provide meals to the children. Our job as medics was to take care of the Army and take their temperature twice a day,” Heller said.

In the three weeks they were there, Heller said the National Guard served 24 communities more than 150,000 meals and put more than 20,000 miles on the buses.

“They did a fantastic job,” she said.