This month Soldiers of the 510th Regional Support Group conducted their battle assembly remotely – connecting via online platforms from around the globe in lieu of reporting to their normal duty station at Sembach Kaserne, Germany.
“It is better to do it this way than to just not have battle assembly,” said Master Sgt. Meghan Giffin, operations NCOIC. “It was great for the command to support this system to ensure all the Soldiers can continue to get paid, keep their status up for retirement credit and have the opportunity to train.”
The innovative training plan and virtual assembly come as the military adapts to operating in the COVID-19 environment, with an emphasis on protecting service members and maintaining readiness to defend the U.S. and her allies if called upon.
“Obviously there is training we cannot do this way, but I do think there was value in us all coming together … getting some good insight and ideas from others on how to cope with this stressful time,” Giffin said. “I think that reminding everyone that we are all in this together and going through the same battle, all around the world, helps to keep people from feeling alone.”
In various chatrooms over the weekend Soldiers of the 510th were able to share some of those battles, including Giffin who works in the United Kingdom in a mental health hospital for criminal offenders who are too vulnerable for regular prison. Her patients include those with difficulty processing language and having swallowing disorders.
“[Monday] I worked with two patients with the virus who have deteriorated and cannot eat,” Giffin said via email. “I was very close to them while eating: touching their face and throat, listening to their chest, being in their personal space. It is very likely I am carrying the virus all around … on my clothes, into my car, other areas of the hospital.
“I do what is recommended, carefully use the personal protective equipment, shower first thing when I get home, wash my clothes immediately,” she continued. “I don’t want to bring it to my family, but I need to be there for my patients. They don’t have a family, and if my family was in their situation, I would hope someone would care for them if they needed it.”
Soldiers of the 510th heard this story during a resilience class Giffin led during the battle assembly. The class, which was preceded by a brigade chaplain presentation on coping with COVID-19, focused on finding ‘the good’ in this new reality and elicited several individuals to share their own stories.
“I have missed three of six of my daughters’ birthdays due to deployments or TDY,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tesha Crawford, operations NCO. “This year we wanted a true birthday at Disney, however COVID-19 happened. My husband and I decided to bring the party to our living room since we could not bring Zoe to the party at Disney World.”
They went online and bought supplies including a helium tank for balloons and a cake with her daughter’s portrait. They then held video chats with “as many relatives as we could to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’”
“It was the best Ninjago party ever attended by just three people,” Crawford said. “We found a way to celebrate with her, but most importantly teach her that strength doesn’t come from what you can do … it comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t.”
“I do think there was value in us all coming together, getting some good insight and ideas from others on how to cope with this stressful time,” Giffin said, “I hope at least I could help my Soldiers feel that they are supported and not alone. After this weekend, I hope everyone got the message that we can build camaraderie and emotional bonds just by facing the hell that is this isolation together.”
Giffin also complimented an effort felt throughout the brigade, with leadership throughout doing the best they can to support Soldiers financially, emotionally and professionally.
“We brought the party to us when we could not go to the party,” Crawford said. “Life will not always be bright, but we can be the light in any dark situation.”