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Guarding The Gateway
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum
June 25, 2020

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way the military operates.

Spanning from donning facial coverings to new work locations at home station, the deployed environment is no different. The area of responsibility has adapted to meet the needs of the mission in an ever-changing expeditionary landscape.

For the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, adapting has meant bringing in Airmen to screen the service members seeking transit through Cargo City.

“We were asked to come when COVID began to become a bigger threat to the area,” said Capt. Stephanie Kompoltowicz, 386th EMDG nurse. “Our commander asked us to screen all passengers on aircraft inbound and outbound. We have questions we ask like ‘Have they been in close contact with anyone that has confirmed case of COVID-19?’ We also ask them symptom questions and also check to confirm no one has a fever.”

Capt. Stephanie Kompoltowicz, 386th EMDG Nurse and Senior Airman Lauren Frensley, 385th EMDG Flight Medical Technician pose for a portrait on the flightline of Cargo City, Kuwait, June 2, 2020. The 386th EMDG screens service members from multiple branches including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Marine Corps that come through Cargo City. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)
Capt. Stephanie Kompoltowicz, 386th EMDG Nurse and Senior Airman Lauren Frensley, 385th EMDG Flight Medical Technician pose for a portrait on the flightline of Cargo City, Kuwait, June 2, 2020. The 386th EMDG screens service members from multiple branches including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Marine Corps that come through Cargo City. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

The EMDG’s mission doesn’t end there, as they have to screen service members from multiple branches including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

“We have a bit of a different mission with each type of aircraft,” said Kompoltowicz. “By that, we mean the Marines and Army come through here. If they aren’t going to Ali Al Salem Air Base we do random temperature checks. For all Air Force that comes through, we do 100 percent temperature checks and start the process of quarantine here, if necessary.”

The team at Cargo City accomplishes this vital task with only two Airmen, Kompoltowicz and Senior Airmen Lauren Frensley, 386th EMDG flight medical technician.

“It helps out a great deal with calming the nerves that come from COVID,” said Frensley. “Dealing with people that aren’t from the medical field, having us be here brings some calmness. Reassuring them that things are going to be ok, and we’re going to get things done. People know the gateway is kept clean.”

Keeping the gateway clean isn’t something that either Airman thought they would be ever tasked with, but each relish the opportunity to adapt to their new mission set.

“I’m a flight medical technician at home station, so usually we’re at a desk doing medical clearances all day,” said Frensley. “To be on the flightline, doing actual medical care, is an amazing thing.”

Frensley isn’t the only one filling a different role for this mission as Kompoltowicz has a nursing background and has had to change how she works to succeed in this different role.

“As a nurse, its different work,” said Kompoltowicz. “I’m used to doing patient care, and I like that it has given me the opportunity to go and do something different.”

While different from their normal assignments, the Cargo City EMDG team serves a vital role in facilitating safe travels throughout the AOR.

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