Photo Caption: Pat White, chief, Facilities Management & Safety office, U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, stocks the organization’s COVID-19 cleaning supply shed. In mid-March 2020, the combatant command implemented enhanced COVID-19 disinfection measures, including increased custodial staff in its eight on-base facilities, to protect personnel and prevent the virus’ spread. Prior to, during, and after the pandemic, White and his four-member office team focus on providing a safe, efficient, and effective work environment for USTRANSCOM personnel and visitors. (Photo by Rob Wieland, USTRANSCOM/PA)
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Pat White, chief, Facilities Management & Safety, U.S. Transportation Command, may not wear a military uniform in the workplace, but he nonetheless serves as a critical combatant in the fight to deter and defeat COVID-19 within the organization.
But the extensive battlefield White and his five-member team engage in combatting COVID-19 involves eight separate facilities, including the headquarters for both UTRANSCOM and one of its three components, the U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.
Prior to the virus’ spread in America, USTRANSCOM maintained a frequency-based custodial contract, coordinated and approved by the installation authority, the 375th Mission Support Group, that featured daily cleaning of restrooms, biweekly trash pickup, and once per week floor maintenance in command facilities.
In mid-March 2020, with COVID-19’s rapid expansion throughout our nation, White worked with the 375 MSG to increase USTRANSCOM’s primary custodial staff from four to six persons. As a result, additional, intensified cleaning of lavatories and office areas, in tandem with continuous specialized sanitizing of most-frequently touched items such as door handles and stairwell railings, have contributed so far to a safe and healthy environment for personnel working on the command’s campus.
“During the past six or so weeks, with fewer people coming on campus due to USTRANSCOM maximizing telework, there have been significantly less repair issues due to reduced frequency of facility use,” said White, who’s worked in his current position since 2008. “This unprecedented situation has allowed our office to conduct more enhanced cleaning measures, preventative maintenance, as well as tackle some of the projects waiting – and needing – accomplishment.”
On a few recent occasions, the Facilities Management & Safety office have implemented more extreme cleaning measures to prevent potential COVID-19 exposure. For example, when notified of an ill USTRANSCOM member departing the workspace, White and his staff, in collaboration with command officials, immediately secured the potentially-infected area. And when informed of the rare COVID-19 positive within the USTRANSCOM campus, the Facilities Management & Safety office requested assistance – through the 375 MSG – from the 375th Civil Engineering Squadron for their decontamination team. Upon arrival, the hazmat-suited group employed foggers and misters to disinfect the infected individual’s workstation.
“We’ve assisted USTRANSCOM with several proactive measures to protect their facilities against COVID-19 transmission including additional custodian services to consistently clean common surface areas and the decontamination of any area that has a confirmed coronavirus case, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines,” stated Landon Sarver, engineering technician, 375 MSG. “During this crisis, it’s been a true team effort by USTRANSCOM – in concert with the base – to keep one step ahead of the virus through enhanced cleaning/disinfection of their facilities. We all must maintain due diligence in eliminating the COVID-19 threat at work and home.”
Two other USTRANSCOM teams – Entry Control Point and Trace – have worked hand in hand with the Facilities Maintenance & Safety office to protect command personnel and prevent COVID-19’s intrusion. The ECP, initiated in late March 2020 and staffed by more than 20 USTRANSCOM and SDDC military members, conducts daily health screenings at one central entrance to the command’s – and another at its component’s – headquarters during peak traffic work hours. The ECP process involves asking each employee CDC-directed questions and then taking their temperature. Based on the individual’s responses and thermometer reading, the team allows the individual either to proceed to the workspace or to the 375th Medical Group and/or their healthcare provider.
Similarly, the Trace team executes the follow-on process of identifying the depth of exposure and isolating the personnel involved and the impacted work areas. Once identified, affected members are directed to testing or isolation per the 375th Medical Group’s guidance. Shortly thereafter, the impacted work environment is cordoned off for cleaning by either the internal on-call team or the base’s decontamination team.
“By all accounts, not one of the cases within USTRANSCOM facilities have led to another infection. The great discipline shown by all command members adhering to Force Health Protection measures is validated by the results, limiting any exposure to others in the workforce,” U.S. Army Col. John Gamby, TRANSCOM/SDDC HQ Response Cell lead, stated. “That, combined with the additional cleaning and physical precautions have this a very safe place to work.”
Another significant preventative COVID-19 measure occurred on April 5, 2020, when Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued guidance on the wear of face coverings. All individuals on DOD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers.
Meanwhile, White and his staff will ensure the continued cleanliness of USTRANSCOM’s facilities so as to keep one step ahead of the viral adversary.
“We’ll keep our current augmented custodial cleaning posture until command senior leadership tells us not to do so,” said White. “Until then, our focus remains on protecting personnel and preventing infection.”
USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power at a time and place of the nation’s choosing. Powered by dedicated men and women, we underwrite the lethality of the Joint Force, we advance American interests around the globe, and we provide our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options, while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.