50,000th COVID-19 Test Kit and Counting

  • Published
  • By A1C Jana Somero
  • 158th Fighter Wing

The Vermont Air National Guard undertook a new mission early this year amid the Coronavirus pandemic of assembling COVID-19 test kits at the Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 Warehouse, and distributing them to VDH district offices, pop-up tests sites and primary care physicians across the state.

Launched on July 20, 2020, seven Airmen stepped up to the challenge to tackle the monumental task to assemble enough COVID-19 test kits to keep up with Vermont’s daily testing demand and to amass a reserve stockpile of at least 20,000 kits.

“This operation has afforded me the opportunity to take an active role in ensuring the safety of my fellow Vermonters, as well as develop new skill sets I wouldn’t otherwise gain in my normal work environment.” Staff Sgt. Mike Grupp, from the 158th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, low observable shop.

The test kit bags include absorbents, saline vials, nasal swabs, health forms and patient instructions. Despite hectic scheduling, by the end of the first week our Airmen quickly produced nearly 8,000 kits. As the operation grew, more Airmen throughout the entire VTANG stepped up and volunteered their time to help complete the mission.

“As warehouse functions evolved, it was a challenge to choose the right individuals to lead the various roles of inventory, distribution, kit-assembly and so on,” said Master Sgt. Karl Johansen, the 158th Medical Group first sergeant and the warehouse manager. “The fact that this team is composed of diverse AFSCs (Air Force Career Specialties), skill sets, ranks and experiences made those decisions easier.”

Several weeks later, soldiers from the Vermont Army National Guard state food distribution mission joined the VTANG test-kit team. Working together as one unit, the warehouse was renamed the Covid War House.

“We know that the world is going through a very difficult time with this pandemic,” said Staff Sgt. Dhruv Gulati, of the 158th Maintenance Squadron. “As a member of the VTANG, I was given the opportunity to be a part of this team. I am honored to be part of the collective effort with the state, the VTANG and the VTARNG to fight this pandemic.”

Exceeding expectations and just 60 days after the initial launch of the warehouse, on September 18, 2020, the team assembled its 50,000th test kit making the mission an overwhelming achievement for the state.

”A lot of this team’s success can be attributed it’s diversity,” said Johansen. “Members volunteered from across many career fields and Air Force specialties; each brought a different skills sets and experiences to the effort.”