MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. — A chartered aircraft carrying approximately 200 U.S. citizen evacuees from Wuhan, China, arrived today at March Air Reserve Base, California, after refueling in Anchorage, Alaska, where passengers received two medical screenings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Every passenger on board also received two screenings in China before departing, another upon arrival here, and they will continue to be screened throughout a 3 to 14 day voluntary observation period here.
With less than a 24-hour notice, Team March spun into action, along with several federal, state, county and local agencies, to prepare a well-deserved welcome to the weary U.S. diplomats and their families.
“One of the diplomats told me that he understands the work that Team March and the other agencies did to put this all together with such short notice, and is thankful for everything being done to welcome them and make them feel comfortable,” said Oliver Freeman, Airman and Family Readiness, 452nd Force Support Squadron. “He said he was especially happy that there were toys, coloring books, puzzles and games handed out to the children so their parents could focus on getting through the screening process and checking into their rooms,” Freeman said. “It felt good to be part of that teamwork.”
Riverside County Emergency Management, who is part of the overall team, coordinates with other county departments to bring together all the local civilian players. Working on logistics with local partners to make everyone aware of what’s going on is the job of Shane Reichardt, Senior Public Information Specialist, County of Riverside Emergency Management Department. He said he shares the information so that all the needs identified can be met.
“We work together all the time and we train for stuff like this so it’s gone very well,” Reichardt said. “We are very fortunate to have a close-knit county family which makes it easier to call our counterparts from different departments and get the information that we are looking for, identify a need and get multiple people working toward getting the resources to fill that need.”
Having exercised with and worked real-world events with Reichardt’s departments, Team March integrated its assets seamlessly into the process as they have done many times before.
“The challenges have been minimal during this event,” said Jose Arballo Jr., Senior Public Information Specialist, Riverside University Health System-Public Health. “The team at March has gone out of its way to be hospitable and the folks at the CDC have been a pleasure to work with,” Arballo said. “We are working together in a collaborative fashion.”
“At CDC, we’re here to support our state, local and sister federal agencies. We’ve been working together seamlessly, (and) very hard these last few days,” said Dr. Chris Braden, Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and CDC spokesperson. “The county and the Air Force Reserve have done a suburb job in standing up really rapidly to receive our fellow citizens that we care so much about.”
“We are taking all precautions to ensure both the passengers and our residents are safe,” said Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, County of Riverside, Fifth District. “This is a very large response that involves many federal, state and county agencies. We are proud to have March Air Reserve Base in our backyard where we have the necessary resources to get this job done, to have this flight land here where we can welcome our U.S. citizens back home after a long arduous flight, and make sure they are well before they head back to their homes.”
The Defense Department will work closely with its interagency partners and monitor the situation closely. The Department’s primary responsibility at this time is the safety of its force, its families, and its base communities.