Ramstein and Aviano airmen help Italians by providing modular medical treatment facility
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 23, 2020
Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The U.S. military is assisting Italy’s coronavirus response by providing a modular unit capable of helping medical workers treat up to 40 patients a day, Air Force officials said Monday.
A C130-J transport plane from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany delivered five pallets of material to Aviano on Friday night containing medical supplies for 22 days, 10 beds and two tents, said Maj. Sarah Babcock, 31st Fighter Wing spokeswoman.
The En-Route Patient Staging System is meant for treating patients and not for coronavirus testing, Babcock said.
No personnel have been assigned to accompany the supplies, Babcock said.
“We’re just waiting to turn it over to the Italians,” she said, referring questions about its intended use to the Italian Defense Ministry, who were not immediately available for comment Monday.
Aviano is ready to serve as a staging area for more supplies if needed, Babcock said.
“It’s evidence why this airfield and us being mission ready is so important,” she said. “So supplies like this can come in. We’re always ready to support our partners during these challenging times.”
Elsewhere in Italy, the 405th Army Field Support Battalion-Africa is gathering supplies at Camp Darby, said Jim Brooks, spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Italy in Vicenza.
It’s the second recent notable exchange between the two NATO allies, who are both confronted by tens of thousands of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Italy’s Health Ministry reported 59,138 confirmed positive cases as of 6 p.m. Sunday. Of those, 5,476 have died and 7,024 are considered cured. Almost half the cases — 27,206 — are in the northeast region of Lombardy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. turned to Italy last week for help in alleviating shortages of the nasal swabs used to test for coronavirus.
Two U.S. Air Force C-17s transported 1 million testing swabs from Aviano to Memphis, Tenn. The swabs were purchased from Copan Diagnostics Inc., an Italian company based in Brescia, according to an Air Mobility Command statement.
The company has committed to providing the swabs on an ongoing basis, Bloomberg News reported.
The pandemic has infected more than 294,000 people around the world and killed 12,944 through Sunday, the World Health Organization said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Jennifer H. Svan contributed to this report.
Airmen assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron load pallets of medical supplies onto a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft heading to Aviano Air Base, Italy, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 20, 2020. The supplies were sent in an effort to provide medical support to Italy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
JOHN R. WRIGHT/U.S. AIR FORCE