Senior Airman Aaron Marketich, 88th Security Forces Squadron, demonstrates the mask and gloves he and fellow defenders are utilizing during the COVID-19 situation on May 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Gate 12A. In the background is Senior Airmen Joshua Gravel, entry controller. (Skywrighter photo/Amy Rollins)

88th Security Forces Squadron continues mission with usual dedication

While much of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s operations have been modified temporarily due to the COVID-19 situation, the mission of the 88th Security Forces Squadron has remained undeterred.

“Our job has never stopped since COVID-19 occurred,” said Master Sgt. Shawna Laris, Operations Support. “We’ve simply adapted and have been innovative with how we conduct operations now. Our main mission and focus continue to be entry and exit of the gates, perimeter security, flightline operations, law enforcement and commercial delivery inspections.

“Our defenders have really stepped up as we’ve added extra personal protective equipment,” she continued. “Our processes had to be slowed to help fight COVID-19, so we’ve had to be extra patient with people we’ve interacted with. We’ve had to make sure we’re following proper entry, search and law enforcement procedures. We were reactive initially, then in short order became proactive once we realized what was going on. We attribute that to our leadership, and we flexed from there.”

Leadership receives credit

Officer Aladino Gomez, Flight-4 chief, also credits 88 SFS leadership with looking out for its workforce.

“Our commander, Maj. Julie Roloson, and other leadership ensured we were tested, given masks to wear that were fitted to us, and the additional necessary personal protective equipment and extra cleaning supplies, and she approved the adapted schedules and has seen that what Col. Thomas Sherman, Wright-Patt’s commander, commanded has been carried out.

Sherman reflects on his time as 88th Air Base Wing commander

“She cared about our level of fatigue and individual health status as we are exposed to more people and gear than anyone else on the installation,” he said. “She ensured we are well-versed on do’s and don’ts when coming in contact with people, vehicles we inspect making deliveries at the commercial gate and personal vehicles.”

Entry controllers weigh in

Senior Airman Aaron Marketich, installation entry controller, said the current COVID-19 situation has its challenges but the squadron has been provided with appropriate PPE and everything it needs.

“We are able to keep the mission moving forward,” he said.

Senior Airmen Joshua Gravel said he is ready to greet Wright-Patt workers returning to working on base.

“It hasn’t been the same since non-essential workers have been working off-base,” he said. “But morale is high, and we are doing the best we can. You have to make the best you can out of it.”

Schedules have been flexed

SFS members’ schedules have been adjusted to ensure the health of the force.

“We [Security Forces] work 24 hours a day, regardless of what is going on with the gates and facilities,” Laris said. “We have to remain healthy and fill post.”

One upside has been that with several gates and facilities closed, 88 SFS has had more flexibility and manpower to handle its mission.

The Pass and Registration section, Bldg. 286, 4185 Logistics Ave., outside Area A, has remained open and been heavily tasked due to the coronavirus so personnel have been assisted by other SFS members, said Staff Sgt. Alyssa Modlin, Resource Protection.

Changes to the Trusted Traveler Program were made to fall in line with Department of Defense guidance, in which individuals could no longer vouch for individuals who do not possess valid credentials to enter the installation. All visitors and caregivers are required to obtain a visitor’s pass to enter the installation.

PPE and see-through barriers were implemented inside the building to help keep everyone safe.

“Those individuals who work there stepped up and deserve recognition as well,” she said.

Morale remains high

88 SFS members have been motivated and everyone is in good spirits, Laris said.

“As defenders, with the way our schedules are now, everyone is really excited when they do get to see each other. They look forward to being together on post. “Communication from the flight chiefs has been excellent and there are constant reminders about resiliency,” she continued. “We get together via Skype or in small groups on shift.”

Personnel have been in good spirits, Gomez said, because they were given proper PPE immediately and members felt safe and clean.

“We have families at home so our PPE at work helps ensure we are not going home and infecting people there,” he said.

“We remain as vigilant and resilient as ever,” Laris said. “We never stop, regardless of what’s going on. We are willing to help people and are undeterred in doing our daily jobs.”

“Everyone rises to the occasion,” Gomez said.

Tips for base personnel and visitors

• When the base starts slowly opening back up, give yourself plenty of time to get through the gates. Supervisors may wish to consider staggered report times.

• Do some research about installation access requirement procedures before attempting to enter the gates. An example is knowing which gates are open and their hours or which documents to bring to the Pass and Registration section.

• Become informed and know precautions and procedures before coming to the gate so no backup is created as the entry controllers perform their duties.

• Drivers, please be patient with 88 SFS members during this unprecedented time as they continue to get everyone onto the installation safely and securely.

• Visitors to the Wright-Patterson Medical Center must call the medical appointment hotline, drive to the medical center’s parking lot and be pre-checked there.

• The Base Exchange, Commissary and Visitor Control Center require all patrons to wear face coverings. There is a restriction on how many shoppers may be present at one time.

• A good source of current COVID-19 procedures is located on the Wright-Patterson Facebook page.

Visitor guideline changes

In response to COVID-19 and current health protection condition, only personnel with a valid Department of Defense identification card, Wright-Patterson AFB visitor pass or other base-issued pass will be allowed entry to the installation.

State-issued drivers’ licenses, passports and other government-issued identification cards previously accepted for access with an escort are no longer authorized. Guests age 16 or older without a valid ID will need to obtain a visitor pass.

Visitor passes may be obtained from the Visitor Control Center, which is currently open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. After those hours, visitors may receive a pass from Gate 12A, for Area A and Gate 19B on National Road for Area B. Please be patient and allow for extra time at the gates as the entry controllers conduct 100 percent identification checks for all vehicle passengers entering the installation.

For the safety of our workers and yourselves, anyone entering the visitor center is required to wear a face covering.

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