Soldiers and civilians of U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Campbell continue to serve the community daily
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 of supporting Soldier readiness remains a constant and its personnel are an important part of ensuring success.
Because every individual plays an important role whether on the frontlines or working in support, in the coming weeks the Fort Campbell Courier will highlight garrison employees and their contributions to the installation’s seamless response to COVID-19.
Protecting high-risk coworkers
Patrick S. Zimmer, operations and maintenance branch chief for the Directorate of Public Works jumped into action filling in for personnel who self-identified as high-risk for COVID-19.
Although Zimmer supervises a 130-person team that maintains more than 5,000 post facilities, he willingly took over the DPW operations and maintenance division chief role as well as the responsibilities of the DPW Roads and Grounds Branch.
“This is my obligation, my purpose and my passion,” Zimmer said.
Early on in the installation’s response to COVID-19, Fort Campbell’s Emergency Operations Center identified four barracks that would be used for quarantine and isolation facilities.
To prepare the barracks for potential occupants, Zimmer assembled a team of more than 50 tradesman who inspected and performed comprehensive preventative maintenance on each building in four days. His quick action ensured the safety of the DPW workforce by preparing the facilities before they were occupied by suspected COVID-19 patients.
“This current situation has given the employees of the Directorate of Public Works visibility on their importance to our customers throughout the installation and purpose to stay motivated every step of the way,” Zimmer said.
Typically during times of mission essential manning, the operations and maintenance division established rotations so all personnel can share the workload. This approach did not work in the current COVID-19 operational environment as it would not limit potential virus exposure to the workforce as a whole.
Zimmer sought out a core group of volunteers to provide mission essential manning, which had a positive effect on the workforce. His staff saw this as a chance to contribute to the mission while protecting more at-risk coworkers.
“We are working very hard right now so that our Soldiers, Families and Army civilians have the facilities and training areas fully operational so they are ready to perform any mission they are tasked with in the defense of our great nation,” he said.
Zimmer said he is proudest of the dedication and commitment he has seen from his team as they accomplish tasks all hours of the day and night.
“Our workforce has worked diligently for over a month in a minimum staffing condition with very few days off and often having to provide assessments and solutions for problems way outside the norm,” he said. “The workforce collectively has never said no and always looked for a way to tell the customer yes. This is probably one of the proudest moments of my career.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped DPW staff realize the importance of communication with each other and every team member throughout the installation, Zimmer said.
“This situation has also created relationships with other directorates and organizations that normally would not have existed, because our employees were enabled to reach outside their comfort zone and take charge of situations they normally would not have addressed in their normally assigned duties,” he said. “The impact in the long run is that coalitions were developed that will have lasting impacts on Fort Campbell in the years to come on the quality of service we deliver individually and as a team.”
Range safety, education
James Visger, range operations specialist, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, is the only member of the Range Safety team serving in a mission essential manning capacity.
Although Visger works on post every day, he does not have in-person interaction with those he is helping because of COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We’ve had to create a unique system where I do everything digitally now,” Visger said.
As the Range Branch transitioned its range packets to online, Visger digitally coordinated and approved more than 30 packets. To make the process easier for his customers he proactively contacted personnel who needed assistance with range packets and approval.
“I stay busy and know I’m providing a service,” he said.
In keeping with COVID-19 social distancing protocols, Visger presented the range orientation briefing via Defense Collaborative Services Web Conferencing, aka DCS Connect, established the uplink and communicated the effort via public awareness platforms. He also provide units with initial and recertification briefings using DCS Connect.
Visger said he is inspired to keep working because he knows he is providing a vital service to Soldiers and the installation.
“I look at myself as part of the B team,” he said. “To be successful, I must do my part. I’m a support guy.”
James E. Parks Jr., lead operations specialist for with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, served as the lead for setting up the quarantine and isolation facilities in the early days of Fort Campbell’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He coordinated with the DPW, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the USO-Fort Campbell to make sure the barracks were functional, clean and safe to house Soldiers, and made it happen in record time. Because of his effort, redeploying Soldiers had a place to go if they needed to quarantine while keeping the remainder of the unit safe from potential exposure to COVID-19.
Additionally, Parks created a checklist and tracking system of redeploying Soldiers who were quarantined and provided units and command with that information daily. This system allowed command to monitor any potential COVID-19 surges and provided directorates, units and agencies across the installation with real-time data and information.
Parks enjoys his job, he said. By monitoring and coordinating redeployment sites and movements, he feels he is doing his part to keep the installation and the Fort Campbell community safe.
“I like the operations world,” Parks said. “It has a high tempo and you stay busy and are always doing something to make a difference in Fort Campbell’s mission and supporting the community.”