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Out of the Flight Suit: 446th loadmaster taps into military training to fight COVID-19

Reservist pose in front of firetruck

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Master Sgt. Lance Nelson, an Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster assigned to the 728th Airlift Squadron, fights COVID-19 as a civilian firefighter with West Pierce Fire & Rescue in Tacoma, Washington. Nelson, a 14-year firefighter, responds to calls and transports COVID-19 patients. Keeping a cool head is something Nelson practiced as a loadmaster and implemented as a firefighter. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

Several 446th Airlift Wing Reservists wear different uniforms when fighting against COVID-19.

Master Sgt. Lance Nelson, a C-17 loadmaster assigned to the 728th Airlift Squadron here, wears bunker gear for West Pierce Fire & Rescue in Tacoma, Washington.

Nelson, a 14-year firefighter, responds to calls and potentially transports COVID-19 patients on his civilian job. But, it is his role in the prevention division, where he interestingly fights the virus.

“As captain in the prevention division, we educate the community how to best protect themselves from the virus,” Nelson said. “Educating the public falls along the lines of reminding [them] of social distancing, using masks, washing hands, staying home as much as possible, and cleaning their living space.”

Recently, Nelson received a call from an elderly person who was concerned about the virus.

“They considered themselves to be in several risk categories,” said Nelson, recalling the conversation. “Listening calmly and hearing what they said, I was able to calmly reassure them that they were doing everything correctly to protect themselves. By the time we left, they were more at ease and felt comfortable with what they were doing.”

Listening and remaining calm are traits he honed serving in the military.

“Every call taps into my (military) training,” Nelson said. “When the community calls they are seeking help with something beyond their control. Loadmasters have to be good communicators.”

Keeping a cool head is something both Nelson and fellow C-17 loadmaster and squadron member Senior Master Sgt. Scott Hesse practiced and implemented as civilian firefighters.

“The military has taught me to stay calm, sort things out and handle the situation,” Hesse said. “When we [on the aircraft] have an inflight emergency, you can’t just pull over and wait for help. You have to work together as a crew, run checklists, and keep what might be a small problem from becoming a large problem.”

 

At the end of the day, Nelson says his military and civilian jobs complement each other well.

“The Air Force requires that we all work well as a team,” Nelson said. “This definitely crosses over into the Fire Service. We work as a seamless team to come to the aid of the community. Working together to fulfill the need, reassure and comfort the citizen, and render aid to those who are not having the best day of their life. Teamwork is fundamental for success in both my career fields.”