With many still wearing their scrubs and cloth masks, and pointing their phones toward the sky, nurses, doctors and staff at more than a dozen medical facilities took a break Tuesday to watch a flyover by a Maine National Guard KC-135, part of a national gesture of appreciation for front-line medical staff.

In Portland, a large contingent of police officers and firefighters joined dozens and dozens of residents for the flyover outside Maine Medical Center.

The massive aircraft is part of the 101st Air Refueling Wing stationed in Bangor, and typically assists fighter jets and other aircraft to gas-up while in flight. On Tuesday, however, its mission was different, and the jet flew overhead from hospital to hospital for more than two hours.

“The entire Maine National Guard is honored to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the healthcare workers and first responders who are working on the front lines to combat COVID-19,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general. “We are also deeply grateful for those essential personnel diligently working to keep our shelves stocked and families supplied.”

The flyover was part of Operation American Resolve, a nationwide salute to those supporting COVID-19 response efforts. The event provided training hours for aircrews and was conducted at no additional cost to taxpayers, the National Guard said.

The Tuesday morning flight path included Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough, Maine Medical Center in  Portland, VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus, Augusta MaineGeneral, Houlton Regional Hospital, Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle and Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent.

The jet also flew over Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of defense and aerospace company General Dynamics, as a show of appreciation of essential workers.

While BIW is not part of the military, President Trump declared it an essential business critical to the nation’s defense because it makes destroyers for the Navy. Because of this, the shipyard has remained open throughout the pandemic, drawing criticism from some Maine lawmakers and union leaders.

BIW recently partnered with Guilford-based Puritan Medical Group to help double the production of nasal swabs used for COVID-19 tests. The shipyard is also 3-D printing plastic face shields for Maine’s health care workers. The printers can produce 12 shields per day for MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care system.

 


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