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Minot AFB medical group honored for going above and beyond

Submitted Photo Members of the 5th Medical Group at Minot Air Force Base gathered in front of the medical facility for a photo depicting everyone who works together as a team. On Friday, members of the medical group were honored for their many hours of work and dedication during the past months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Minot AFB Airman 1st Class Caleb Kimmel.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – Men and women of the 5th Medical Group at Minot Air Force Base have dedicated many hours of work to their healthcare mission during the past months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were honored on Friday at the medical facility at the base. Medical group personnel joined the ceremony in person and virtually.

Certificates, representing medals that many medics will receive, were available at the ceremony. Several people were recognized at the ceremony on behalf of everyone who will be honored. The awards include the Armed Service Medal and Service Medal for military members and Certificates of Appreciation to civilians.

The 5th Medical Group at Minot AFB has roughly 300 medics and takes care of over 12,000 beneficiaries all the time, said Col. Lisa Bader, medical group commander. This year on top of that, she said they dealt with a global pandemic.

“At times we had fewer people to accomplish the mission,” she said. Bader said augmentees from throughout the base also assisted them.

She said those at the medical facility did all kinds of work, from getting additional computers for telework and telehealth and answering additional phone calls to lending an ear to the many who were in crisis. The medical group also worked with base Public Affairs to get messages out to people.

She said the medical group is staffed for five-day-a-week operations and many went to seven-day-a-week operations.

“We also identified best practices for the entire Air Force with regards to COVID testing,” Bader added.

Capt. Rick Pierson, medical readiness officer, who was narrator for the Medics-R-Awesome Appreciation Ceremony, said the men and women of the 5th Medical Group have accomplished and sacrificed so much over the past 10 months to ensure a healthy and mission-ready force during the unprecedented times of COVID-19.

Chaplain David Jenkins, who offered a prayer at the ceremony, said, “Today we come to you with great appreciation and love in our hearts for the medical group.” He said they have helped people individually, have helped families and helped the base be mission ready.

In early February, Minot AFB medics prepared to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and a table top exercise occurred on March 6.

“Also in March, they faced Team Minot’s first case,” Pierson said.

Since then, the medical group has ramped up operations “and spent countless hours keeping our warfighters ready to accomplish their mission and to keep our families safe,” Pearson said.

He said over 13,157 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, ensuring their beneficiaries are healthy.

Col. Michael Walters, commander of the base’s 5th Bomb Wing, said the past months have been a challenging time for the nation and the Air Force.

“COVID-19 is no different than any other adversary we faced and like those other adversaries that we faced, we adapt and we execute,” he said, adding, “Team Minot was able to carry out the mission without missing a beat.”

“We all owe you a debt of gratitude for your selfless service and what I value more than anything else is that selfless dedication. Thank you for what you do and all you’ve done,” Walters said.

Col. Chris Menuey, commander of the 91st Missile Wing, said the medical personnel “are the maintainers of the human body” and without them “we can’t execute our mission.”

“Thank you so much for all you have done throughout this pandemic,” he said.

Reflecting on the medical group’s work, Menuey pointed out a number noted during the ceremony – the 10,000 COVID test kits built by the medical group.

“I know for the 91st a lot of that had to do with the surveillance testing that you were able to pull off for us on a weekly basis to make sure that everyone that went out to the field was safe, able to operate and that we wouldn’t spread this virus to anyone else. We were able to do that. Thank you so much. You’ve kept us mission ready,” he said, adding, “You’ve kept our families ready – that we were able to focus on the mission out in the field, knowing that everyone back home was safe.”

In a letter from Sen. Kevin Cramer that Pierson read at the ceremony, Cramer said, “Thank you to the amazing Air Force personnel at Minot Air Force Base and throughout the Air Force.”

Cramer said there might not be a ticker tape parade or an airport homecoming video when this is all over.

“But I want to ensure you everyone from President Trump to the members of Congress to the citizens of North Dakota deeply appreciate your work and know you are fighting this war as hard as any airmen or soldier has fought before. For that, we thank you. Our nation will be forever grateful,” he said.

Bader relayed a message from Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command: “Our medical professionals have been on the front line in a battle against the global pandemic. The hours have been long and the dangers real.”

Bader, sharing a sentiment on behalf of herself and Chief Master Sgt. Becky Thomas, medical group superintendent, said, “I am humbled. I am honored and so proud of all that you do.”

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