First F-35 still on track to arrive at Eielson in April, likely delay in Airmen to support

(Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Like most organizations, there have been changes due to coronavirus precautions, including at Eielson Air Force Base. We spoke to 354th Fighter Wing Commander Colonel Benjamin Bishop who says they

“We do view COVID-19 as a threat to our people, our mission, our community, and we’re taking active precautionary measures in order to mitigate that threat,” said Bishop.

He says some of those precautions are those recommend by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention like encouraging good hand hygiene, no handshakes, and social distancing.

“In addition there has been higher headquarters guidance that has come down from the Department of Defense limiting travel, specifically to overseas and then also travel to the continental United States. What we have done here locally in adherence with that guidance in order to take good prudent measures is anyone that has traveled outside the state of Alaska, we’re placing them under a restriction of movement or quarantine for two weeks in order to mitigate the threat of the coronavirus,” said Bishop.

The DOD travel ban, which is affecting military travel across the Air Force, will also alter the F-35s, which will start arriving in April. Bishop says the first F-35 is still on track to come to Eielson.

“The jet is ready, the aircraft are moving forward, and I expect that they will be delivered on schedule. The question is will we have the people and the travel ability to support those deliveries. So right now we have a lot of people that are joining the Fairbanks North Star Borough, moving into the community in order to support that bed down, currently all those people are staying put for now, awaiting further guidance. So that’s probably going to be the biggest impact is the people moving into the community to be able to support it in this environment,” said Bishop.

As a precaution, Bishop prohibited gatherings of 50 or more people on base, and limiting as much as possible any gatherings of 10 or more people. They also reduced some of the force support services, which include closing the Eielson Community Center, closing bowling lanes, and the youth center. The Child Development Center is still open.

“Leadership take this threat seriously. We are fully engaged to make sure that we are protecting our Airmen and their families, taking appropriate measures to safeguard our mission and also to support the community as a whole. One of the things at Eielson is we take pride in thriving as a community in the harshest environments. We look after each other, the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Bishop.

Eielson created a website with updates on leadership’s guidance on COVID-19 precautions.

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