May 11, 2020 | BY Keith Pannell
Per Germany's 14-day quarantine requirements, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz is providing a place for soldiers coming from Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, to stay during the quarantine period.
"This is another example of working with our German state partners to ensure we adhere to the rules they've put in place for foreign travel in the overall effort to minimize any possible spread of COVID-19," said Army Col. Jason T. Edwards, the garrison commander. "The soldiers were tested before they left, and were tested again upon arrival, and all were negative."
Normally, most AIT soldiers would take leave en route to their unit and first duty assignment. However, due to the stop movement order by the secretary of defense in March, AIT soldiers have been held at their training installations until the official travel restrictions are lifted.
At one AIT site, the newly graduated soldiers were doing refresher training every day, performing maintenance on their military vehicles and making themselves available to instructors to help the class that came after them, according to Army Capt. Jared Allen, with the 428th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Now that AIT soldiers have started moving to their new duty stations, the first wave of soldiers coming to Germany began their 14-day quarantine period May 2.
The garrison is providing living accommodations in the fenced-off Deployment Processing Center and is finding innovative ways to provide necessities for the incoming soldiers, said Henry Kaaihue, the S 3/5/7 director. S 3/5/7 provides coordination and manages the garrison's day-to-day operations.
aaihue said the garrison's role in housing the soldiers is to support the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, with the 16th Sustainment Brigade having the lead for this mission.
"Col. Scott Kindberg, [the commander of the 16th Sustainment Brigade], and the entire team have done a superb job of developing an incredible plan for accomplishing the task, while also taking care of our most precious resource, our soldiers," Edwards added, praising the overall combined effort. "The cooperation has been outstanding throughout this entire time," he said.
Along with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the 409th Contracting Support Brigade is in charge of finding local contractors to provide the necessities the incoming soldiers will need during their two weeks in quarantine. However, with the brigade needing 30 days to get the contracts online, the garrison Directorate of Public Works stepped in to fill the gap.
"The DPW has had to supply a temporary solution for latrines, showers and hand-washing stations," said George Brown, the administration and operations branch chief for DPW. "The DPW provided a bridge to cover that 30-day gap."
While DPW set up the infrastructure by providing buildings, electricity and other necessities, other garrison agencies are lending their services to fill other needed roles.
"The Directorate of Human Resources will be providing briefings to the soldiers, the Logistics Readiness Center is providing buses, and Family and MWR will be providing a few things the soldiers can do while quarantined, as well as lodging for a few families who came in with their AIT soldiers," Kaaihue said. "This is really an all-encompassing garrison reaction drill to something we had no idea was coming, but the garrison is ready to handle it."
In addition, the USO-Kaiserslautern team dropped off comfort bags for the new arrivals, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. D. Brett Waterhouse, the garrison’s command sergeant major.
"The bags included snacks, toiletries, razors, shower sandals, baseball caps and chocolate," he said. "Our USO partners have been absolutely outstanding in providing support to soldiers assigned here, and now our inbound troops as well."
(Keith Pannell is assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz.)