Friday, May 01, 2020

Army Finalizing Plan to Resume Collective Training

May 1, 2020 | BY Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

The Army aims to soon resume collective training and hold a ceremony for graduating West Point cadets after the success of measures safeguarding new recruits at training centers.

In a Pentagon briefing Thursday, Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said a proposed risk mitigation framework that outlines a safe return to exercises is being finalized with the help of the defense secretary and other services.
"As we balance global operations and combating COVID-19 on the homefront, the Army continues to need a manned, ready force," he said. "We will continue to take the necessary precautions to protect the force, and we will enable commanders [with] the flexibility to make conditions-based decisions."

Thousands of new recruits have moved through initial military training sites in the past few months, he said, while at the same time the Army has been protecting them against the virus.

Once recruits arrive, they are placed in groups and screened and tested for the virus, as controlled monitoring and tactical dispersion measures continue during their cycle.

"We are creating the safety bubbles that will protect the force while they conduct training," Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said, adding over 800 recruits were shipped to training sites last week.

The Army looks to replicate similar measures for home-station training and rotations at combat training centers. Gen. Michael Garrett, commander of Army Forces Command, said Tuesday that the newly-activated 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade is slated to be the first unit to train again at the Joint Readiness Training Center in June.

On Wednesday, McConville visited the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, to see firsthand how it will safely receive units. "Getting back to collective training is crucial," McConville said, "but we need to make sure we have the right measures in place first."

Training opportunities, though, may vary depending on the threat of the virus at a specific location. "It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution," he said. "We're looking at the long game. We're not waiting for COVID-19 to go away."

As the Army — including its efforts with national laboratories and private industry — works to find a vaccine, the general said the service will need to operate under a COVID-19 environment for some time.

"We can't telecommunicate to combat," he said. "Our troops need to be ready to go. And what we need to do as leaders is put the appropriate risk measures in place."

Future Army officers will also need to be prepared for their first duty assignment. Graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, for instance, are set to return to West Point, New York, to complete medical and administrative tasks needed for them to commission.

The cadets left the academy's grounds on March 6 for spring break and have attended remote classes ever since.

"We have to bring the cadets back to start the process to get them to their initial duty assignment," McCarthy said. "There are tasks they have to perform at the academy."

The cadets are scheduled to arrive at nearby Camp Buckner, where they will be screened and tested for the virus. Afterward, they will return to their quarters for quarantine.

"While they're at West Point, they will be [separated] the entire time," Army Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the academy's superintendent, said. "They will come back in five cohorts, [and] no cohort will intermingle while they are there for those 14 days. They'll eat and live separately."

While at the academy, the cadets will be able to complete physicals necessary for their branches, clearance requirements and collect any of their personal items.

On June 13, President Donald Trump is also expected to speak at their graduation ceremony, which will be held using safety measures, such as physical distancing. "We'll do it safely," Williams said. "We're going to take care of them."

Defense Logistics Agency Pivots to Support COVID-19 Response

May 1, 2020 | BY Chris Erbe

The agency that traditionally contributes to America's military readiness with items such as fuel and food has so far ordered more than $920 million in lifesaving supplies and equipment to support the nation's COVID-19 response.

Time-tested processes and partnerships developed during past humanitarian assistance operations enable the Defense Logistics Agency to provide supplies and services that few organizations, public or private, can match, said DLA Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams.

"While DLA is a combat logistics support agency whose mission is to support our military services and combatant commands, its support to the whole of government during times of national crisis is indispensable," he said. It manages about $42 billion in annual sales for the military services, 11 combatant commands and 42 federal agencies, as well as partner and allied nations.

DLA has supported the Defense Department's COVID-19 response by increasing production and acquisition of critical items through existing large-scale contracts across multiple supply chains. 

"Our outreach to industry has been ongoing for years with strategic supplier alliances, prime vendor relationships and other tailored logistics vehicles," said Tim Stark, DLA ombudsman. "These partnership-type connections allow us the flexibility to respond rapidly during times of stress on the industrial base like we're seeing today."

By late April, the agency had procured more than 4 million N95 respirator masks, 14.4 million nonmedical and surgical masks, 92.2 million exam gloves, 816,300 hand sanitizers, 821,000 test components, 8,000 ventilators, and 2.5 million isolation and surgical gowns for military and federal agencies.

DLA also stocked the Navy hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy with more than $14 million in protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, fuel, food and repair parts. Other military medical support went to Army field hospitals in places such as the alternate care facility at the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Respirators and other medical equipment have been used aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt. Gloves, masks and hand sanitizers were sent to troops in South Korea.

Specialized items such as COVID-19 test kits, patient monitors and nonmedical fabric face masks were also researched and introduced into DLA's inventory. And to address critical supply shortages early, DLA broadened its manufacturing base to acquire medical supplies through global and domestic sources.

Using additive manufacturing technology, DLA procured 11,000 laser-cut protective face shields for New York City medical workers. The agency also met N95 mask shortages by awarding a contract to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services with  60 Critical Care Decontamination Systems, each capable of sanitizing 80,000 masks a day for reuse.

Even items previously scheduled for disposal or reuse have been provided, with DLA Disposition Services sending thousands of respirators, surgical masks, gowns, gloves, goggles and other items to military and federal customers.

Luis Guzman, area manager for DLA Disposition Services at Camp Pendleton, California, said his team has provided temporary hospitals throughout the country with everything from tents and cots to mattresses, exam tables and diagnostic lighting.

"Our personnel here are doing everything within their power to identify property that can support this COVID-19 pandemic response," he said.

The agency can also deploy expeditionary logistics capabilities around the globe at a moment's notice. 

"DLA is a consequential partner in supporting the whole-of-nation response," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Allan Day, director of DLA Logistics Operations. "And while we recognize that COVID is the enemy here, we're not losing sight of our mission to provide readiness support for all of the services."

Though DLA is a DOD agency, support to other federal agencies is a priority that comes to the fore during crisis response such as COVID-19. The partnership involves federal, state, local and tribal entities, said Stephen Dubernas, chief of DLA's Whole of Government Division.

"In fact, through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, we're integrating with many foreign countries, so I would call it a 'whole-of-globe' response."

Dubernas said the agency's focus pivots to support the nation when needed. "Never has this been more important than the response to COVID-19," he said. "On a daily basis, we're touching a large number of our more than 40 interagency partners."

DLA has provided logistics support for 26 disaster relief and humanitarian assistance responses since 2010, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, and Florence and Michael in 2018. The agency also played a major role in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Those events gave agency employees real-world experience consolidating support with government agencies such as FEMA, thef State Department and the Army Corps of Engineers.

To support the current crisis, DLA liaisons are embedded with FEMA, HHS, the White House Task Force, U.S. Northern Command and the Pentagon's Joint Acquisition Task Force.

"I think in many ways DLA was put together for such a time as this," Day said. "We're what the nation needs right now, and I'm really proud of the people who are making it happen."

Williams added that DLA is solidifying its role as an invaluable asset for DOD and the federal government by showing its unique ability to leverage logistics expertise for humanitarian response while maintaining warfighter support.

"I've always been proud of DLA's support to our warfighters and our nation," he added. "Our people remain the secret sauce of this agency – they're the ones who make all of this support possible."

COVID-19 Ops, Bahrain Command, 5G Problems Briefed at Pentagon

May 1, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Two Navy hospital ships deployed to New York and Los Angeles to aid in fighting the pandemic are winding down operations, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said today.

The USNS Comfort left New York harbor for its home port in Norfolk today. The USNS Mercy in Los Angeles has stopped accepting new patients.

"These are both welcome signs that the American public is following CDC guidelines and the number of COVID-19 cases are decreasing," Hoffman said. "Local hospital capacity in these two areas have been sufficient to meet the demand."

This does not mean that DOD personnel are out of the fight against coronavirus, though. In New York — the hardest hit area in the country — there are almost 700 uniformed doctors and nurses deployed in hospitals in the city and surrounding areas, Hoffman said.

But the DOD has worldwide missions, responsibilities and interests, and the Pentagon spokesman highlighted some of them.

He announced that British Royal Navy Commodore James Parkin turned over command of the International Maritime Security Construct in Manama, Bahrain to British  Royal Navy Commodore Rob Bellfield in a virtual ceremony. The construct is meant to secure the vitally important Arabian Gulf region from malign actions. A total of eight nations participate in the construct and Parkin said he expects more to join.

Admiral participates in a virtual change of command as a British naval officer is pictured live on a computer screen. Seven miniature national flags are on the table in front of the computer screen.

He also noted that yesterday the U.S. Transportation Command awarded a $7.2 billion global household goods contract to the American Roll-on, Roll-off Carrier Group of New Jersey. The contract is for relocating service members and their families.

Hoffman also announced that two Navy ships — the USS Barry and USS Bunker Hill — conducted freedom of navigation operations this week in the South China Sea. The ships "started and ended a full transit at a time and place of our choosing, as we always do," he said. "The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate to challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law."

Finally, he announced that DOD representatives will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week on the Federal Communications Commission decision to award Ligado Networks to deploy a 5G system that could disrupt the Global Positioning System. Dana Deasy, DOD's chief information officer; Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; and Space Force Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations and commander of U.S. Space Command, will testify before the panel.