MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AFNS) --
Two C-17 Globemaster III pilots transported 972,000 COVID-19 swab kits from Italy April 2, the seventh load of kits delivered in two weeks for distribution around the United States.
Pilots 1st Lt. Bryan Burns and 2nd Lt. James Conlan, along with an 11-man crew that flew the testing kits from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Memphis. Their mission started as a two-week stage in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, that changed at the last minute to a COVID-19 transport mission home, according to Burns.
"This mission is super important. We have been out of the country flying around (the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility) and out of the loop on what's going on in the states," Burns said. "It's really awesome to be bringing supplies to my hometown. It brings me back to where I started."
Burns and Conlan were born and raised in Memphis. Both pilots graduated from Collierville High School in 2011, attended separate universities and pilot training schools, but ended up at the same base, the former McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
"I'm really humbled and honored to have the opportunity to be flying these COVID-19 kits from Aviano AB to Memphis. I'm really excited to be home," Conlan added.
The mission follows the first Air Mobility Command-directed mission on March 19, which also transported 500,000 testing swabs in support of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-led, whole-of-government effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.