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51st MDG dentist becomes the face of Osan’s COVID -19 ops

  • Published
  • By A1C Megan Estrada
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- U.S. Air Force Capt. Kristin Kim, 51st Medical Group Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Expeditionary COVID Center flight commander, is a general dentist by trade who has taken on the role of running all COVID-19 related operations at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Early last year Kim decided to step aside from dentistry to volunteer at the vaccination POD in effort to aid the 51st Medical Group with operations. Although entering a new unit brought some unforeseen obstacles, it shaped Kim into a strategic leader and presented her with a new perspective on the Air Force.

“I was helping out with the COVID vaccination POD and the captain in charge was PCSing, so I volunteered [to fill their role],” said Kim. “Then the colonel who was in charge of COVID-19 medical screening on flight missions asked if I was interested in operating a similar capacity, because he was PCSing. So, I stepped away from the vaccination POD, and then I started taking on the flight missions.”

Slowly gaining experience in every COVID related section on base, the training molded Kim into the perfect candidate for running all COVID-19 related operations when leadership decided to combine all base wide COVID-19 units together.

“She is putting in a ton of work and effort. She is responsible for and in charge of all inbound and outbound PCR tests and all antigen testing. Additionally, she’s in charge of any type of distinguished visitor flights and the rotator that comes twice a week,” said Staff. Sgt. Bradley Borytsky, 51st MDG Operational Medical Readiness Squadron mental health technician. “She is tracking all those different missions and she still has to maintain her general dentist license.”

Being in charge of a much larger unit than anticipated provided Kim the leadership opportunity of learning how to balance running the operations cohesively while sustaining the mission.

“The Airmen I have right now are all motivated. We’re all on the same page when it comes to improving processes and trying to protect the community,” said Kim. “Having a small group with similar mindsets and a similar drive has helped make us become a more efficient team.”

Through all the hardships and growing pains, this volunteer opportunity has allowed Kim to grow as a leader and provided her a new apreciation on the Air Force and each member’s individual contributions.

“It’s surreal. I was doing dentistry and then all of a sudden, I’m a flight commander for COVID. I really appreciate this position, because I got to see the real Air Force, not just through medical eyes,” said Kim. “I get to go to the flight line and see how certain exercises and missions work. I got to meet people from different units and see the bigger picture.”

Her triumphant efforts with balancing the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining her dentistry certification, earned Kim Air Force and Wing level award winning titles in 2021 to include USAF Dentist of the year for PACAF and 51st Wing Team of the Quarter Award.