May 25, 2020

Dave Dixon Leads Coronavirus Testing Site

Dave Dixon

Dave’s formal military head shot.

It was mid-March when Dave Dixon got the call from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard: He had 18 hours to report to duty. Dave is part of a specialized task force formed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to provide a medical response in similar events. The 193rd Special Operations Medical Group is comprised of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical technicians and logistical support personnel; Dave holds the rank of Chief Master Sergeant and he is the group’s superintendent.

He is also controls system estimator for Trane’s commercial sales office, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

Setting up coronavirus testing

The Pennsylvania Air National Guard called Dave’s task force to set up and operate a drive-through COVID-19 testing site on the Ambler campus of Temple University, near Philadelphia. Dave helped coordinate the efforts of federal, state, county and local officials, source test kits and personal protective equipment, support and manage the efforts of all team members performing the testing, open lines of communication and share best practices with and learn from other similar units.

“It was a lot to coordinate – we didn’t have a playbook for this scenario,” Dave said. “Our COVID-19 response wasn’t a mission before this time, however, our task force adapted quickly and performed exceptionally well. We already had the right training, safety equipment and medical knowledge. It’s amazing how quickly we can deploy our people and assets and stand up a mission against a brand new threat.”

Trane makes it possible for Dave to serve

Unlike active duty branches of the U.S. military, the National Guard is comprised of people with civilian careers who train on the weekends to be ready to support federal and state missions. Dave says working for Trane gives him the flexibility to keep his military career alive.

“Having a good relationship with a supportive company like Trane makes my participation in the National Guard easy to continue,” he said. “I’ve been with the National Guard longer than I’ve been with any company, and it’s important to me.”

It all started 30 years ago…

Dave started his career with the Army Reserves in 1986, and it was quite serendipitous.

“I didn’t originally intend to join up,” he said. “My best friend in high school wanted to join the Army, so I went with him to get a day off from school. What I learned that day sparked an interest and I decided to sign up that day – and my friend did not!

“I fell in love with it right away. Joining the Army Reserves afforded me money for college, great training and opportunities to travel.”

Dave is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom, and has been deployed to U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Africa four times.

Later, he switched to the U.S. National Guard and served on two humanitarian aid missions in Alaska. He held civilian jobs during every deployment.

Mission complete

Dave spent 15 days completing the coronavirus test site mission, then 14 days in quarantine, living alone in a hotel room, having his vitals repeatedly checked to make sure he didn’t have the virus. His deployment totaled 29 days away from home and his wife, Suong.

During his quarantine, Dave started thinking about his wife at home and asked himself if he did enough to prepare for his absence. Before he left for deployment, he used his 18 hours wisely, helping his wife get the food she’d need while he was deployed, topping off the gas in her car and making sure the emergency generator was ready to go, just in case. He had 18 hours’ notice before this deployment, but he could have as little as six.

“Being part of a rapid deployment unit like this one is a big commitment,” Dave said. “Having 18 hours of notice gave me the luxury of getting my home taken care of so I can be 100% focused during the mission. But during my downtime, I found myself wondering if I had done enough.”

He says the opportunity to help others is worth it.

“I served my entire career in a medical unit, providing support to those who do more dangerous jobs,” Dave said. “When delivering medical support, there’s a sense of gratification. We’re not destroying – we’re building up and helping to repair lives. It’s fulfilling helping neighbors, friends and the local community. This fulfilment validates my training and experience and is why I continue to serve.”


Dave Dixon family

Dave and his wife, Suong.

Get to Know Dave, in his own words:

Grew up in: Scranton, Pennsylvania

Home is: Tannersville, Pennsylvania

About family: Family comes in many forms – by blood, through legal bonds or by choice. My wife and I don’t have children of our own, but we enjoy a special bond with all of our nieces and nephews. We’re fortunate to have them so close to us.

What do you love about being in the military? I love the culture. The U.S. Air Force core values are Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do. Everyone in the Air National Guard lives by the same code; we wear the same uniform and there’s an instant bond and trust between us.

On being a leader: The military environment helped me grow into the leader I wanted to become. As a 30-year veteran I’ve attained the top enlisted rank – I can’t go any higher, so my job is to relentlessly develop and train the airmen in my unit. I owe them every lesson I’ve learned from my leaders over the years – my role is to give back.

Best advice you ever received: “What got you here will not get you there – you need to get better.”

Would like to invent: A cure for ignorance and hatred.

Favorite place to be when you’re not at work: Anywhere with family

Least favorite chore: Cleaning the bathroom

Favorite band: Rush

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