The Soldiers and civilians of U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Campbell continue to work together to support Soldier readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While under mission essential manning and increased safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, the garrison’s vital mission remains a constant and its personnel are an important part of enduring success.
Because every individual plays an important role whether on the frontlines or working in support, the Fort Campbell Courier is highlighting contributions made by civilians and Soldiers that have ensured the installation’s response to COVID-19 is seamless.
This week the spotlight is on a few of the great people who work for Fire and Emergency Services and the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
Protecting emergency personnel
Heather Brown, administrative assistant for Fire and Emergency Services, Directorate of Emergency Services, has gone beyond the call of duty to ensure all emergency personnel are protected while responding to calls during COVID-19.
As FES geared up to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, Brown became a central figure in the logistics arena to acquire the personal protective equipment needed for the fire department.
“I thought ahead to what some of the challenges our departments might face,” Brown said. “We haven’t really had that experience before, but I knew we would have some difficulties. I decided to take this over and start reaching out and making contacts in the community. They are first responders, and I felt someone needed to be looking out for their safety while they are focusing on taking care of everyone else.”
Because of national and regional shortages, Brown quickly developed professional relationships with vendors locally and nationally that resulted in DES receiving the needed PPE quickly. She spent many hours going to different businesses within the local community to find available masks, gloves, sanitation materials, hand sanitizers and disinfectants for the fire stations.
“Once I realized how hard it was to get the supplies, I started reaching out to local business and store managers,” Brown said. “I also asked them to consider setting aside supplies for all first responders, not just Fort Campbell’s, because I knew they were going to be dealing with the same challenges we were. I know a lot of people immediately think of protecting themselves, but I have a unique perspective because I work with them, so it just spoke to me that I needed to be looking out for them since I have the time and availability.”
Brown’s ability to locate and purchase critical PPE is instrumental in FES maintaining proper supply levels that have resulted in the protection of the force.
Planning and protocol
Benjamine Peetz, assistant chief of operations for FES, served as the lead planner for FES COVID-19 protection and response.
Peetz quickly realized the threat to the firefighters and implemented procedures within all five fire stations to maximize social distancing, established personal protective equipment requirements and initiated an aggressive cleaning schedule, all in an effort to protect the workforce.
“We wanted to identify the best measures to make sure all of our DES/FES folks are protected,” Peetz said. “Not only are we first responders for the community, we’re also citizens in the community. We wanted to make sure we reduced the risk of exposure as much as possible to reduce the risk of contaminating our Families, ourselves and members of the community.”
Peetz also collaborated with Blanchfield Army Community Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services to establish appropriate PPE levels for medical responses, and adjusted response procedures and protocols that would limit firefighter exposure.
“Unfortunately, we had to close the first stations down to community access,” Peetz said. “People coming to the station needed to be mission essential to access all of the first responders. We established cleaning cycles and began a decontaminating schedule every four hours, and we also changed how we change our shift so two shifts weren’t interacting with each other.”
Additionally, Peetz developed COVID-19 screening questions that E911 Communication Center dispatchers would ask callers.
He also assisted in the development of a staffing reduction model in the event COVID-19 infections occurred across the operational firefighting force.
“I do think we’ve been successful in what we have implemented,” Peetz said. “No FES employees have been exposed to the virus through work-related activities or diagnosed with it, and I think it’s due to the measures we have implemented.”
The model Peetz helped establish identifies trigger points with associated risk. This risk assessment process allows the garrison commander and senior commander to make informed risk decisions.
Sergeant First Class John M. Wisniewski, DPTMS operations noncommissioned officer, worked tirelessly to lead the deployment operations team to establish coordination between units and other installation agencies. This coordination ensured short-notice deployments in support of COVID-19 operations were successful.
Wisniewski was instrumental in the successful deployment of the 531st Hospital Center to New York. Because of the quick response time for these deployments, it was imperative that all actions and timelines were strictly adhered to and Wisniewski ensured processes were understood and accomplished.
“I think the 531st deployment was important, it helped out the country with the reaction to this virus,” Wisniewski said. “It was a unique deployment, the unit was giving back to the community at home, which is not something they normally get to do.”
Wisniewski’s leadership and experience were instrumental during the coordination of support services to ensure Soldiers could deploy quickly. He also was the co-lead for opening and equipping the post’s quarantine and isolation facilities, coordinating with the Directorate of Public Works; Morale, Welfare and Recreation; and the USO to make certain the facilities were functional, clean and safe to house Soldiers.
“We got these buildings serviceable,” Wisniewski said. “I had a whole team of people working with me. We made sure these buildings were livable within two to three weeks, it was a huge team effort and a big process when we started.”