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    Okinawa’s Senior U.S. Army Officer Reflects on Two Years in Command, Part II of III

    Okinawa’s Senior U.S. Army Officer Reflects on Two Years in Command, Part II of III

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Nancy Lugo | TORII STATION, YOMITAN, OKINAWA – 10th Support Group Commander, Col. Theodore White,...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    10th Support Group

    TORII STATION, YOMITAN, OKINAWA – With about a month remaining in his time as Senior Army Officer in Okinawa and Commander of the 10 Support Group here, Col. Theodore White spent some time reflecting on his time in command.
    Part II of III: The COVID-19 Crisis, Torii Station
    On enjoying Okinawa despite the COVID-19 restrictions:
    “I have expressed on multiple occasions, if you go though and look at the change orders, the restrictions are very specific: No bars, no night clubs, no restaurants, you couldn’t go off the island, when we started; if you read the memo, there is much more you actually could do, than you were specifically restricted from doing. If you focus solely on what the memo said you could not do, you could lose sight that the many things you could still do was much greater. The only caveat was that you do these things while adhering to the social distancing that is required.”
    On reacting to challenges presented by COVID-19:
    “We have had some very good results when it comes to the COVID-19 virus here, based off the early moves that were made in mid-January on the SOFA side. America Fest was cancelled by the 18th Wing, which I was really looking forward to, and the (Marine Corps Air Station) Futenma Flight Line festival was turned off; on the Okinawan side, they turned off a lot of festivals, shut off the cruise lines, started ratcheting down on the international flights, all to reduce the risk of exposure. Fast forward and we had three positive cases in early March, and then nothing else until the end of March. And when you did the forensics on those later cases, they came from off the island. Because we moved early and all of us were willing to make sacrifices, the number of cases on the island remained very low.
    “And all of that was done for the overall health not just of the force, of the uniform wearing members, but for the Family members as well, and by extension the Okinawan community. We are all in this together, we’re on an island, we can’t run from one another. It was part of our conversation when we started talking about the various health protection conditions. We looked at whether we were going to approach Health Protection Condition Delta, and as I reviewed the conditions associated with that, to get to that level means we would have to completely cut ourselves off from the host nation and our Okinawa partners. And we could not sustain ourselves for an extended period of time without their help and support. It would just be physically impossible. You can’t take a bunch of Marines, or Airmen or Soldiers, into the Base Exchange or the Commissary and ask them to restock the shelves, or unload the trucks, send them to Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) distribution to pick up all the goods that need to be moved, from one BX to the next. But we do have to put in place those measures that protect us, and when I say protect us, that includes our Japanese MLC work force, and all of those that come onto our bases to help us function. By extension they are part of our military family, committed to the mission. We are one big team that makes everything here work.
    “It was rather interesting to watch the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the Okinawan citizens, because there appeared to be an attitude of complacency, carrying on as normal. But that changed significantly when the second person passed away here on Okinawa from the virus. That sent a pall over the community, and folks began to realize that this was serious, and could quickly get out of hand. Everyone made the adjustments, they saw us pull back, and I think we’ve been largely successful in keeping this disease at bay. It was a community problem, a community fight, and we did many things in parallel. Which is good, because as we begin to open the aperture again, one of the data points we have been examining is to observe the same protective posture off post as you do on. As we go forward, I see a lot of the same things we emplaced within the fence lines are taking place in the community. And that is good for all of us, especially when tourism begins to open up again.”
    On Senior Commander-Garrison Commander relations:
    “What makes this work is the relationship. Having observed that at Fort Bragg gave me a structure to rely on, for how that relationship should work. There are certain things that I have the authority to do, and there are certain things that the garrison commander has the authority to do, and has the resources to do them. Where it works, is the conversations that we have, the relationship we have, there are things that (Lt. Col.) Joel (Gleason, USAG Okinawa garrison commander) will defer to me, because the decisions that I make reach beyond the Torii Station fence line, and do impact the Army on Okinawa writ large. But because he has many of the services that support the Army, there are times where the decision that I make drives him to make decisions about allocating resources. Working together that way helps with the relationship and making things work right.”



    Date Taken: 07.09.2020
    Date Posted: 07.09.2020 00:04
    Story ID: 373589
    Location: YOMITAN, OKINAWA, JP

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