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Brothers come together in crisis response efforts

Col. Hans F. Otto, commander of the 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, and his brother, Cmdr. Josef (Joe) Otto, an Army and Air Force veteran now serving in the U.S. Public Health Service, were both in New York City to help with the coronavirus relief efforts. Both brothers connected in New York within just a couple days of Hans’ arrival.

Col. Hans F. Otto, commander of the 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, and his brother, Cmdr. Josef (Joe) Otto, an Army and Air Force veteran now serving in the U.S. Public Health Service, were both in New York City to help with the coronavirus relief efforts. Both brothers connected in New York within just a couple days of Hans’ arrival.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Thousands of US troops deployed to New York City in April in support of coronavirus relief efforts at a number of medical facilities in the region. Among the response team: the Otto brothers of Ohio, a tight-knit family with a rich legacy of military service.

“Growing up in Waynesville, Ohio, we had each other,” said Col. Hans F. Otto, commander of the 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. “Even in the professional world, we still have each other's backs.”

Hans, an allergist, immunologist, and internist in the civilian sector, arrived in New York City on April 6th. He lives in Kentucky and was one of seven Citizen Airmen who deployed from the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. 

His youngest brother, Cmdr. Josef (Joe) Otto, had been in New York City since early March and helped establish the Jacob K. Javits field hospital. Joe is an Army and Air Force veteran who now serves in the U.S. Public Health Service.

The two connected within just a couple days of Hans’ arrival. 

“During what little downtime we had, we tried to go on socially-distanced runs together, sometimes two or three times a week,” Hans said. “We all work hard and play hard.”

Meanwhile, their eldest brother, Gustav (Gus) A. Otto, was helping provide strategic oversight throughout the mission. Gus retired from the Air Force and now serves as Defense Intelligence Agency Senior Representative to NORAD-NORTHCOM in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"Knowing that Gus had over watch on us from a distance was pretty awesome,” Hans said. “We were all working different aspects of the same mission.”

They said their varied areas of expertise lent to their ability to aid in the relief efforts.

"When you put us all together, it's amazing to see what we can do as a team," Joe said. “We all had different perspectives on one big, global mission.”

They appreciate each other’s viewpoints and said they often ask for advice from one another.

“If we call, even if they can’t pick up the phone right away, we always know we can count on each other,” Gus said. “I seek counsel from them, and I trust their judgment.”

As the coordinated response efforts in New York City wind down, the brothers parted ways, for now at least.

“The time we spend together is always sweet,” Hans said, “and it’s never enough.”