Military News

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Logisticians Make COVID-19 Fight Possible


March 31, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Joint Staff logisticians are working around the clock to help civilian authorities deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Army Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, the Joint Staff's logistics director, said his small organization in the Pentagon is working with U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Northern Command to ensure the right people are where they need to be, that they have the right equipment, and that the material that civilian health care providers need is delivered to them.

"We're all in on this," Tuck told Pentagon reporters via a telephone briefing.
The general reiterated the Defense Department's three priorities in dealing with COVID-19: protecting the health of the people, maintaining mission readiness and supporting the whole-of-government effort. Up and down the line, logistics personnel are working overtime to ensure these priorities are met, he said.

Tuck's organization receives the requirements from the combatant commands and the services. The requests for the Navy hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort to go to Los Angeles and New York, respectively, went through the organization. "We had a hand in making sure that the medical component of that, as well as the sustainment of those of those two vessels, were indeed being looked after," Tuck said.

The office also worked on establishing Army field hospital support in Washington state and New York. They are working with the services, Transcom and Northcom to transport and sustain Navy expeditionary medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans. The sailors will report to treatment facilities being established at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
DOD is also delivering ventilators – the most effective treatment for those who come down with COVID-19 – where they need to be. DOD has earmarked 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services. "As of last night, talking to the logistical folks that helped in Health and Human Services, we have 1,000 that we are going to put in a prepare-to-deploy order, because that's what they're asking for," Tuck said. "If they need the full complement of 2,000, we're able to support."

DOD has already delivered 2 million of the 5 million N-95 respirator masks. The department stands ready to deliver more when HHS asks, the general said.

The Air Force has flown a number of "test swab" missions from Memphis, Tenn., to Italy. "Each mission has run about 500,000 apiece, we've done six of eight missions, so 3 million or 4 million delivered," Tuck said. "Again, those are helping Health and Human Services."

Finally, the organization is working with State Department officials to get Americans overseas home. The office is working closely with Transcom for these flights. "Our job was basically to help get the authorities access for basing and overflight," he said.

These are Civil Reserve Air Fleet carriers, although the department also uses Air Force planes in some areas, such as U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility, where there are established flights with space aboard. "We can put Department of State personnel, their families, American citizens, legal permanent residents on those airplanes," the general said. "We've done nine missions to date."

Combatting COVID-19 "is the most important thing that's on our plate," the general said. "We're working on not only those things, but we're working on personal protective equipment, more on medical testing, … along with a myriad of things that I hadn't mentioned."

Transcom Looks for Ways to Safely Move COVID-19 Patients


March 31, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

U.S. Transportation Command was responsible for moving patients with COVID-19 from Djibouti, Africa, to Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment. Moving contagious patients isn't easy, Transcom's commander said, but efforts are underway to make it safer.

"The movement of a highly contagious patient is a much different challenge," Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons told reporters via teleconference today. "We are also working ... to increase our capacity to be able to meet these kind of requirements, because we know they're increasing."
Patients with COVID-19 can be moved in an air ambulance or with a transportation isolation system, which was designed in response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, but those systems have limited capacity, he said.

So, additional work is being done in partnership with the Air Force, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, NASA and other agencies to find additional ways for air crews to safely move COVID-19 patients.

"We're working with scientists ... to really study the aircraft circulation flow and the implications of the movement of those particulates and potential impacts on crews, so that we can indeed move COVID-positive patients and passengers without an isolation unit while adequately protecting the crew," Lyons said. "We think we're making some progress."

Transcom also has adapted operations in other ways in the face of COVID-19, Lyons said. For instance, it's not possible for air crews to telework, nor is it possible for those same crews to practice social distancing while on board. Nevertheless, precautions are being taken to ensure continued health and safety of crews — something Lyons called "isolation in motion."

"When you're in the cockpit, there's no way to get 6 feet apart," Lyons said. "The way that we're managing our flight crews is unique in many ways, ... where we billet them is controlled, where they eat from, their food is delivered. So, we're trying to create a very concerted cocoon, if you would, over our entire flight crew apparatus.  And ... that seems to be working to date. It allows us to continue [the] mission and protect the force at the same time."

Air crews arrive at a destination and move directly to their temporary housing, and then they don’t leave until it’s time to depart on the next mission, Lyons said. They don't go out to eat, he said, and they don't leave the installation.

"Even inside that base, they're very, very controlled," he said. "That's the way we're managing that."

hile Transcom is still running its standard mission set, those missions have been augmented by new takings related to coronavirus.

"We are supporting the State Department and their Task Force Repatriation effort," he said. "We have moved things in support of Health and Human Services, for example, [coronavirus] test swabs across the globe. We've helped to move field hospitals that you see being built in places like New York and in the state of Washington where we're pleased to help. We're proud of all that we do every day."

Lyons said there is some concern about maintaining the mostly civilian-operated transportation capacity, which Transcom contracts with, to perform much of the transportation it facilitates for the Defense Department.

Civilian airlines are struggling with the drop in commercial air travel that has come as a result of the pandemic, Lyons noted. "So, any opportunity we have to push workload in their direction, we're doing that," he said. "We're doing that largely with repatriation efforts and other efforts of that sort."

Additionally, Lyons said, as a result of reductions in movement for military personnel, many of the permanent changes of station that would happen in the summer might not happen. 

"I am very concerned, especially for our small-business partners that make up so much of the ... household goods moving industry," he said. "You know, we're very active in our communication both with the industry sector and the services who are managing the exception to policy on the moves to make sure we're at least seeing things the same way in terms of managing expectations and workload."

Despite challenges with the coronavirus, Lyons said, Transcom is still ready to move whatever the DOD needs moved.

"We're still operating the global mobility enterprise," he said. "We still must do that to maintain our level of readiness for the secretary, and, so, I believe we are doing that. I believe we are ready. I've reported to the secretary that we are ready to meet our mission requirements as they come."

Logistics Readiness Officer Ensures Ohio Guardsmen's Safety


 March 31, 2020 | BY AIR FORCE TECH. SGT. SHANE HUGHES

As nearly 400 members of the Ohio National Guard go to work each day packaging, transporting and distributing food and other essential items to the state's most vulnerable populations, a logistics readiness officer assigned to the 178th Wing monitors the situation to ensure the guardsmen are safe.

As a member of Joint Task Force 37,  Air Force 1st Lt. Justin Rainier is supporting Operation Steady Resolve as an intelligence officer.

He said his job is to gather intelligence information for the various commanders to pass on to the soldiers and airmen working at the food banks. The information he gathers includes threats against the guardsmen, as well as severe weather and road conditions that might affect food distribution routes.

''If you have flooding or road closures in some of the more rural parts of the state, there might only be one road in or out,'' Rainier said. ''If civilians can't get to the food bank because of flooding, we have equipment that can ford through water and get that food where it's needed.''

But we as guardsmen are flexible by nature, because we never know what the mission is going to be, and it can always change at the drop of a hat.''
Air Force 1st Lt. Justin Rainier

He said he's also tracking how COVID-19 is spreading throughout the state to help guide decisions on how to best keep guardsmen healthy while performing their missions. ''This is something fairly unprecedented,'' Rainier said. ''We’ve done all this before, but the difference here is the scale and the duration, and we’re just getting started.''

Army Lt. Col. Mike Draper, Joint Task Force 37 chief of staff, said the skills Rainier brought to the team have been a huge asset for the mission.
While he isn't an intelligence officer by trade, Rainier said, there is some overlap between his role as a logistics officer and his new temporary position as an intelligence officer. Both roles require him to determine how to best allocate resources to complete the mission, which is the task force's overarching mission, he explained.

''I'm getting a crash course in just a sliver of what [intelligence officers] do every day,'' he said. ''This is a new realm for me. But we as guardsmen are flexible by nature, because we never know what the mission is going to be, and it can always change at the drop of a hat.''


Army Maj. Nick Palmer, the task force's operations officer, said he's been impressed by Rainer since he walked in the door. ''He received little to no guidance, and he jumped right in, briefing terrain and weather effects to the boss,'' Palmer said.

Rainier said it's critical for the National Guard to step in and help ensure that people's basic needs are met to help keep the community safe and healthy.

''We're serving a greater purpose,'' he said. ''Everything we're doing is to try and save lives.''

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shane Hughes is assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Wing.)