‘We were kind of the guinea pigs’: What the pandemic was like for one 185th member while deployed

Veterans Voices

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — With all the training members of the military go through before deploying, many had no idea what was coming to them in the wake of the COVID-19. One member of the 185th was one of the first to be quarantined while deployed in Kuwait.

“I think deployments are more what you make of them, you know,” said Senior Airman Mark Ramirez, of the U.S. Air Force Air Guard.

Ramirez is with the 185th Air Refueling Wing. He went on his first deployment to Kuwait in January of 2020.

“Tensions were high because an Iranian general had just been assassinated three days before we had gotten there,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez served as a security forces member, working 12-14 hour shifts outdoors with temperatures reaching 130 degrees.

“We’re checking personnel’s packages that are also coming in, we’re checking vehicles. We had K-9’s out there,” said Ramirez.

However, Ramirez would soon face an entirely different and unexpected challenge during his deployment.

“We were kind of the guinea pigs. So we were the first group of people to be quarantined in Kuwait,” said Ramirez.

The pandemic reaching his base, leaving him quarantined after an exposure to someone who tested positive.

“You would just try and find some weights and try to work out, keep yourself occupied,” said Ramirez.

While Ramirez did not test positive, his return home was delayed by roughly three months.

“It kinda hits you deep. You know, you’re expected to come back home, you know, you have this set date, but, everything’s subject to change overseas,” Ramirez said.

Adding his training made the unexpected change par for the course.

“The military isn’t going to conform to you, you have to conform to the military,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez is now full time with the security forces squadron and even though his first deployment proved a not so typical experience, he’s hoping to sign up for as many deployments down the line as he can.

“I’m super grateful every day I wake up that I’m part of the 185th Security Forces Squadron,” Ramirez said.

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