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South Carolina Air National Guard performs COVID-19 tests for mission critical personnel

  • Published
  • By Lt.Col. Jim St.Clair
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

Due to an innovative partnership with Lexington Medical Center, U.S. Air National Guard Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG), are being rapidly tested for COVID-19 to ensure critical missions can continue uninterrupted.

“It started with an idea. Just sitting down one day just saying ‘Hey. Why can’t we do this?’” explained U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Bosley. Thanks to Bosley’s civilian expertise, he was able to facilitate a unique contract to get SCANG personnel returning from deployment tested as well as personnel assigned to the Aerospace Control Alert (169ACA) trained unit at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.

Bosley works as a microbiology and molecular supervisor for Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, South Carolina during the week. On drill weekends he’s the 169th Fighter Wing Drug Demand Reduction Program Manager with the 169th Medical Group.

When 169th Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Akshai Gandhi, wanted to start testing mission critical personnel on base, 169th Fighter Wing Public Health reached out to Bosley because of his connections with Biofire Defense, a company that manufactures a rapid COVID-19 test. 

“I realized that I could be doing this testing. I could do it at my hospital. I went to my administration [at Lexington Medical Center] and said ‘Here’s the deal. We need to do COVID testing for our patients. But we also need to do it for the military.’” Bosley said.

Right now only returning deployers and 169ACA assigned Airmen are being tested weekly.

Bosley performs testing twice a week along with Army or Air Guard medical personnel who assist with the collection of the sample. The medical personnel are provided by State Air Surgeon Dr. (Col.) Philip Latham’s Medical Strike Team. The Medical Strike Team is an Army/Air Guard medical collaboration that links Army Guard medics with Air Guard aerospace medical technicians. The Medical Strike Team has been performing COVID-19 testing across South Carolina since May at community testing sites, correctional facilities and other locations.

When Bosley arrives, he has the testing procedure down to a science. “I show up and the people who will be tested are waiting for me. I gown up in the proper PPE, put the gloves on and then do the nasopharyngeal swab. Then I have a tube of vial transport media, in a Hank’s solution that I break the swab into. [Hank’s] is a media that supports the growth of viruses and keeps them healthy until I get back to work,” Bosley said.

It only takes two hours to get the results back. Bosley said the testing might be ramped up later to include other critical personnel on base.