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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2020

South Carolina National Guard tests mission-critical members

By Lt. Col. Jim St. Clair South Carolina National Guard

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. – Due to an innovative partnership with Lexington Medical Center, Airmen with the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing are being rapidly tested for COVID-19 to ensure critical missions continue.

“It started with an idea. Just sitting down one day just saying, ‘Hey. Why can’t we do this?’” explained U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Bosley.

Thanks to Bosley’s civilian expertise, he was able to facilitate testing of SCANG personnel returning from deployment and personnel assigned to the Aerospace Control Alert (169ACA) trained unit at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.

Bosley is a microbiology and molecular supervisor for Lexington Medical Center in Lexington during the week. On drill weekends, he manages the 169th Fighter Wing's drug demand reduction program with the 169th Medical Group.

When U.S. Air Force Col. Akshai Gandhi, 169th Fighter Wing commander, wanted to start testing mission-critical personnel on base, 169th Fighter Wing Public Health reached out to Bosley because of his connections with a company that manufactures a rapid COVID-19 test.

“I realized that I could be doing this testing. I could do it at my hospital. I went to my administration [at Lexington Medical Center] and said: ‘Here’s the deal. We need to do COVID testing for our patients. But we also need to do it for the military,’” Bosley said.

Right now, only returning deployers and 169ACA-assigned Airmen are tested weekly.

Bosley performs testing twice a week along with Army and Air National Guard medical personnel who assist with collecting the samples. The medical personnel are provided by U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Philip Latham, SCANG state air surgeon, Medical Strike Team. The Medical Strike Team is an Army/Air National Guard medical collaboration that links Army National Guard medics with Air National Guard aerospace medical technicians. The Medical Strike Team has been performing COVID-19 testing across South Carolina since May at community testing sites, correctional facilities, and other locations.

When Bosley arrives, he has the testing procedure down to a science.

“I show up and the people who will be tested are waiting for me,” Bosley said. “I gown up in the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), put the gloves on and then do the nasopharyngeal swab. Then I have a tube of vial transport media, in a Hank’s solution that I break the swab into. [Hank’s] is a media that supports the growth of viruses and keeps them healthy until I get back to work.”

It only takes two hours to get the results. Bosley said the testing might be ramped up later to include other critical personnel on base.