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    "Zone Defense" used to protect Army Reserve Soldiers against COVID-19

    "Zone Defense" used to protect Army Reserve Soldiers against COVID-19

    Photo By Capt. Matthew Cline | Spc. Patrick Humphreys takes notes at the front screening desk at the 377th Theater...... read more read more

    BELLE CHASSE, La. - With over 5 million cases and counting in the United States, COVID-19 continues to be a nationwide threat. For the Soldiers of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command, the fight against the virus has been raging since March when the command initially mobilized to support U.S. Army North, which serves as the lead for all federal ground troops in the continental United States for Defense Support of Civil Authorities. Since then, 377th Soldiers have adapted operations to suit the ever-changing health climate that the coronavirus presents.

    “We’re operating in a COVID environment and we’ve implemented several measures with the help of our medical team,” said Staff Sgt. James Andrews, the mission assurance division supervisor for the command. “We use force protection and force health protection measures to maintain high levels of operational efficiency to create a safe environment for our army personnel and our civilian personnel.”

    In a conventional operational environment, the Soldiers could attend meetings, travel throughout the building or even to other states with little consideration for their health or safety. COVID-19 has demanded far more robust safety and social distancing measures, including a recently implemented “zone” system enacted by the command out of an abundance of caution. This system requires Soldiers to report directly to their assigned workplace, and prevents them from engaging in any unnecessary movement into other areas of the headquarters building.

    “The zones have been great,” Andrews said. “They promote the use of video conferencing, email, phone or other remote means of communication to accomplish the mission—something you would normally visit that person’s office and have direct physical contact for. It also provides us an effective way to conduct contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 positive case.”

    In addition, the command requires daily temperature screenings for Soldiers upon entry into the building along with a wellness questionnaire to detect changes over the last 24 hours. Teleworking has also become a staple for both Soldiers and civilians.

    Throughout this response, the Department of Defense has provided military capabilities that enable the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist state and local governments when requested. Recently, these requests for support have come from Texas and California, where nearly 1,000 medical troops responded to augment the local civilian infrastructure in dozens of hospitals across both states.

    These Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces have been the mainstay of Army North’s response to the virus, requiring continuous monitoring and logistical support from the 377th TSC headquarters in Louisiana. A single case at the headquarters building could have a large impact on the 377th’s ability to support the essential mission.

    Any COVID-19 positive diagnosis results in a series of quarantines for personnel in contact with the affected individual, effectively taking each Soldier out of the fight for weeks. With that potential negative outcome in mind, Maj. Kerry Lewis, the command safety officer, has stressed the command must now operate in a ‘new normal.’

    “We can’t do it like we used to,” he said. “Before the virus, we used to have several meetings throughout the day where a large number of people were in a confined space. We now conduct the same meetings on a secure channel with the same amount of people, so we’re able to conduct the mission without the possibility of spreading it.”

    Lewis emphasizes the importance of personal accountability in the response to COVID-19, highlighting the enormous impact simple measures like social distancing, proper mask wear, and adherence to the building guidelines can have. Ultimately, he says, it is the difference between victory and defeat.

    “The stakes couldn’t be any higher,” Lewis stressed. “If we don’t take care of our own, take care of ourselves, and follow the guidance, we won’t be able to do our job and get the mission done for the people who need help across the country and it’s as simple as that.”



    Date Taken: 08.14.2020
    Date Posted: 08.26.2020 13:27
    Story ID: 376035
    Location: US

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