Monday, April 27, 2020

Lab Staff Adapts Annual Observance to COVID-19 Conditions

April 27, 2020 | BY Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany Murphy

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, also known as Lab Week, is observed annually to promote awareness and show appreciation to medical laboratory professionals and pathologists for the work they do.

This year, however, Lab Week is taking place under different circumstances. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, medical laboratory staffs are having to adapt to keep patients safe during a worldwide pandemic.

To show their support, members of Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, made this year's Lab Week theme "The Silent Warriors behind COVID."

While safety procedures such as wearing face masks have been put in place across the installation, the operations at the 30th HCOS laboratory have not changed. Patients are still greeted by lab technicians, who are able to safely obtain samples and perform the critical tests needed to ensure patients are receiving the care they need, despite the challenges imposed by COVID-19.

The job of a laboratory technician is not as easy as simply drawing blood. Lab techs, and the information they provide, are extremely important to mission readiness. Once they draw blood, they perform tests that aid in various diagnoses. Their continuous support directly aids the 30th Space Wing's individual medical readiness, flight physicals and occupational health readiness.

As members at the 30th HCOS continue to provide care during the pandemic, they are focused on finding better and timelier ways to assist their patients.

In addition to the daily diagnostic activities, lab techs are at the forefront of implementing new diagnostics and therapies for better patient care.

Air Force Capt. Lenita Campbell, the officer in charge of diagnostics and therapeutics, said Vandenberg was the first base in the Space Force and the second outpatient clinic in the Defense Department to provide COVID-19 testing. In addition to standard testing, the COVID-19 rapid testing capability was brought to the 30th Medical Group about a week before the start of Lab Week.

"BioFire technology is a game changer," said Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Rountree, the 30th HCOS commander. "Before BioFire, all tests were shipped to one of our DOD reference labs in San Diego, which had a 24- to 72-hour turnaround time. Bringing this new technology to the 30th Medical Group allows us to get results within an hour, which will support operational and health care decisions."

Because supplies are limited, BioFire will be used on a case-by-case basis. If patients meet the criteria for testing, two types of tests can be administered. A mission impact assessment made by affected commanders and the base public health officer will determine if the affected member's test will be done in-house or sent to a military reference laboratory.

"The laboratory team was very excited to bring this technology to Vandenberg because this will allow our health care providers to collect from symptomatic patients and have results within an hour," Campbell said. "This will allow for quicker diagnosis of the disease, which will ultimately protect our military mission and community by issuing proper isolation and quarantine protocols to anyone exposed. Additionally, a faster result time has the potential to reduce the number of people placed in quarantine which keeps our members launching rockets, one lab test at a time."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany Murphy is assigned to the 30th Space Wing.)

DOD Small Webinar Series Continues: Foreign Investment: Tools for Small Businesses and How DOD Can Help

April 27, 2020

The Department of Defense’s Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), continues to partner with Defense Industrial Base (DIB) small businesses to identify impacts of COVID-19.

OSBP has already held two successful Defense Small Business Webinar Series events in April, on relief efforts available and cybersecurity, and now the third will be “Foreign Investment: tools for small business” which will be held this Wednesday, April 29 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Interested businesses can join Wednesday’s webinar by clickinghere. 

“This webinar series has been instrumental in helping identify COVID-19 impacts and solutions in the small business community, especially those in the defense industrial base,” said OSBP’s director, Ms. Amy Murray. “Combined with our daily and weekly engagements and outreach, this webinar series will continue to help provide a consistent flow of information to those who need it most.”

More specifically, the Foreign Investment webinar will help inform small businesses about the issues of adversarial foreign investment, provide education about regulations in place to counter adversarial capital, and offer an overview of tools available to industry to protect themselves. The webinar, will feature Mr. David Stapleton and Mr. Andrew Pahutski, DOD leads for Trusted Capital and Global Markets & Investments, respectively.

The first webinar included presentations from senior Department of Defense and Small Business Administration leaders on relevant relief efforts and had nearly 2,000 participants.  The second webinar, hosted by Project Spectrum, focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and how small businesses can best protect themselves.

Please visit for more information on OSBP, and how the Defense industrial policy office continues to partner with the defense industrial base to address COVID-19 impacts.

Corps of Engineers Team Upholds 'Building Strong' Motto During COVID-19

April 27, 2020 | BY Julie Shoemaker

The Army Corps of Engineers consistently lives up to the motto ''Building Strong,'' with some 37,000 civilians and soldiers delivering daily engineering services to customers in more than 130 countries.

COVID-19 has caused unimaginable changes to people's lifestyles, attitudes about social interaction, hygiene and overall priorities. People are self-quarantining and avoiding contact beyond immediate family members. Large numbers of workers are teleworking from their homes, and major life events such as graduations, celebrations, weddings, and funerals, have been postponed or cancelled.

The Corps of Engineers, including the Transatlantic Middle East, or TAM, District, has continued its primary mission while also assisting the nation and federal agencies during the crisis, ''Building Strong'' through deeds, not words.

TAM's headquarters is in Winchester, Virginia., with offices throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in the Middle East and Central Asia. Its work includes designing and constructing facilities for use by U.S. forces, performing engineering activities for other U.S. government and foreign agencies, and providing operations and maintenance services for various customers throughout the region.

''We don't have the luxury of waiting out COVID-19,'' said Army Col. Philip Secrist, the Middle East District commander, when he initiated maximum telework of Team TAM. ''Our mission partners are counting on us to continue to deliver during this challenging time.''

Projects still need to be completed on time, and Team TAM is doing whatever it can to do that, he said. The team in Winchester, including project management, contracting professionals, legal advisors and more, is coordinating through teleworking members and others deemed mission-essential. Contracts are awarded and project milestones are being met. The district continues to serve U.S. and allied mission partners, he added.

Work continues at TAM field offices, with many health and safety precautions being integrated into the daily routine.

''We are all doing our part to protect others, even when we cannot maintain the o[6-foot] distance while operating [or] riding our low speed vehicles to the job sites,” said Mark Wittrock, a Bahrain area resident engineer.

The list of essential office supplies required for daily activity has evolved during the pandemic. The Bahrain resident office now has an IP communicator, which is essential for many mandatory and daily conference calls, Wittrock said.Decontamination spray is kept on hand for daily wipedowns of the entire office. Decontamination wipes, face masks and antibacterial hand gels are used for travel outside of the decontaminated area, he continued. While maximizing telework and social distancing, several necessary phones are needed to keep in touch with team members abroad.

''I have my Saudi cell phone nearby to stay in touch with the Saudi teammates, since I cannot cross the border now,'' Wittrock said. ''And my U.S. cell phone to stay in touch with the TAM team in Winchester Plus the Bahrain cell phone to both stay in touch with Bahrain teammates and to use for taking pictures when needed.

''For nonsensitive information exchanges, we use several different group chats,'' he said. ''A specific Bahrain resident office group chat for our daily personnel status/COVID-19 check-ins, and our KAS Artillery Group chat is an effective tool for project updates and communicating among the project team members.''

The TAM offices are also doing their best to ensure that the contractors working for the Corps of Engineers on the worksites are safe, he added. This includes implementing techniques and tactics such as social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment, and establishing decontamination stations throughout the job site.

(Julie Shoemaker is assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers.)