Lajes maintainer rises to the occasion during COVID-19
By Senior Airman Kristof J. Rixmann, 86 AW/PA
/ Published June 29, 2020
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Master Sgt. Carlos Torres, 65th Air Base Squadron maintenance superintendent at Lajes Air Field, Portugal, has always believed in leaving a positive impact at work, with friends and with family.
Since early March, his impact grew on both a multinational level, and an interpersonal one as he worked to return American citizens afflicted by COVID-19 back to the United States for treatment, and eventually, back to their families.
Specifically, Torres coordinated return dates back to the U.S. for all COVID-19 related patients, which was determined based on available resources and manning.
In retrospect, Torres said he never imagined making an impact on such a large scale.
“It feels great,” said Torres. “I’m grateful knowing we’re helping American citizens get back home and that we’re doing our part in the midst of COVID-19. (The 65th ABS) continues to build on the fantastic ongoing relationship with the base host nation, Portugal, as we handle any COVID-19 related missions that come our way. At the same time, we’re also working hand-in-hand to maintain the safety and health of everyone on the island.”
As the virus spread, Torres accepted new responsibilities to close gaps in safety COVID-19 had opened.
Torres began training maintenance personnel on medical screening procedures and coordinated with 65th Air Base Group independent duty medical technicians to ensure 11 maintenance personnel were trained on correct procedures to conduct and annotate aircrew and passenger questionnaires as well as measure body temperatures.
In addition to his new role as an instructor, Torres regularly coordinated with pilots who had COVID-19 patients on board to ensure the safe, seamless transit of U.S. citizens as they made their return back to the United States for treatment. He coordinated the landing time of the aircraft, and ensured the aircraft received any requested refueling or maintenance services.
Prior to the virus, pilots would briefly step off the parked aircraft during a refuel to speak with Torres about things they need before they departed Lajes Air Field. With the safety of his team in mind, he implemented new policies such as keeping all doors on the landing aircraft closed at all times throughout the refuel. Torres established communication with pilots during refuel with the use of radios, thus ensuring no contact or spread of the virus was possible.
Torres and his team were front and center for all Lajes Air Field U.S. support missions.
On June 19, Torres received the Ramstein Air Base Airlifter of the Week, presented by Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, in recognition of his efforts made throughout this unprecedented time.
Torres is quick to deflect credit.
“I didn’t do any of this on my own,” said Torres. “Pretty much everyone on this base helped out in some capacity. We’re all a team here and no one is ever on their own.”