Black Jack begins prudent COVID-19 course of action

A U.S. Soldier assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division uses a hand washing station to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 during training at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 19, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Gertrud Zach)

On a global scale, citizens around the world are navigating the slipperiest of slopes along what is currently the uncharted territory of the Coronavirus.

Moving forward, perhaps there is no more pretending that strangers are long awaited friends. In fact, social distancing has become a very necessary institution in order to slow the continued spread and scale of the current pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID – 19) continues to make its unforeseen presence felt worldwide.

The United States Army is not immune, but has been very effective to date, in limiting exposure to its Soldiers. Travel restrictions and other measures have been put in place throughout the European theater.

Indeed, the Army goes rolling along…

“The initial impacts of these restrictions are not lost on the leaders of our organization and we are working diligently to find ways and means to mitigate projected friction points,” said 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (2ABCT), 1st Cavalry Division (1CD) of Fort Hood, Texas Commander Col. Jeremy S. Wilson. “In the meantime, the brigade will be posting regular updates regarding travel restrictions, best practices and additional information via social media at in order to keep our Blackjack family informed.”

The 2ABCT Soldiers are in the midst of their current European deployment in support of Atlantic Resolve and so far, all is well.

“Currently, we have no Soldiers that have tested positive,” said 2ABCT, 1CD Brigade Surgeon Maj. Andrew Bombardier. The Grafenwoehr medical clinic has COVID – 19 swab testing capability and Soldiers can be tested at either the Weiden Clinic or sent to Landsthul.

Although numerous worldwide events have been downsized, cancelled and/or curtailed, the U.S. Army’s training and operations remain the same and the brigade is continuing its mission. Nevertheless, many active duty Soldiers abroad are also engaged with ensuring the safety of their families along the home front.

“My mom and her boyfriend (back home) would be considered a susceptible population. So, it’s been a lot of reaching back home to ensure that they are tracking the right disinfectants to use, that are actually effective against COVID,” said Brigade Environmental and Engineering Officer, Capt. Brianna Allen. “The EPA has published an extensive list of what is effective and it’s important that you’re checking the registration number of the disinfectants that you’re using as household products against the list. Or, when in doubt, a 500-PPM (parts per million) solution of bleach will work against just about anything.”

For most natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and unexpected flooding, there is a playbook. Although the aftermath is devastating, we know what to expect. There is a degree of preparation and guidance that is universal.

COVID-19 however, is uncharted territory.

“This is something that we have been building and planning for. It’s one thing planning for it, it’s another actually living in it,” said Bombardier. “It’s a growing and learning experience.”

Yet, the U.S. Army is adapting to a changing, very fluid environment and is committed to fulfilling its missions across the European theater as well as others. Presently, the 2 ABCT is taking precautionary measures to protect the health of their force and maintain operational readiness. They are continuing to evaluate current day-to-day operations to ensure the safety of all of their Soldiers. They’re also encouraging all personnel to follow the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Blackjack is committed to preventing the spread of the coronavirus, protecting our Soldiers and families and ensuring our readiness,” said Wilson. “In support of these efforts we have increased security around local forward operating sites, limited travel to mission essential events within the local area and developed response measures to contain potential incidents.”

The battle rhythm has certainly changed – at least momentarily.

Blackjack medical personnel continue working tirelessly each day in an effort to protect Soldiers from infection.

“I come in shortly after doc (Maj. Bombardier) does at about 0730. I am pulling the reports from anyone that’s been seen overnight,” said Allen. “I’m updating all of our trackers. My entire day is dedicated to combatting coronavirus.”

Moving forward, containment is the primary objective, but is there an endgame in sight?

“My hope is for the development of a vaccine to protect our most vulnerable population, you know, definitely get some herd immunity out there to protect those vulnerable people,” said Allen. “That’s the finish line for the preventative medicine side of the house, is that vaccine and preventive measures are in place.”

As the crisis plays out worldwide, Soldiers of the 2ABCT continue their missions by staying in their respective lanes and exercising an abundance of caution.

“I’m working on the fifty meter target of keeping Blackjack safe, that’s where one hundred percent of my focus is right now,” said Allen.

Fighting ‘til the battle’s won, the Army goes rolling along…