CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — In response to the heightened threat of COVID-19, U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys Commander Col. Michael F. Tremblay created a task force team to serve as the garrison’s central coronavirus response team, March 8.
The following day, Task Force 37 moved in a few doors down from his office. The group consisted of eight people, each with a different job specialty from within the garrison installation support directorates. All worked around the clock to mitigate the threat of the virus.
“Our central presence in the command suite was very convenient for Colonel Tremblay,” said Dennis Stockwell, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security chief of plans and operations, and currently the task force lead. “It allowed him to quickly consult the key players to make informed decisions that best protected the community.”
According to the team, their primary function is to support the 65th Medical Brigade by conducting contact tracing. Upon notification by 65th MED of a positive U.S. Force Korea personnel, they begin the process. They interview the individual to learn their movement history, from the beginning of the contagious period to the positive test. That information is then verified using surveillance footage and Defense Biometric Identification System data to create a precise timeline.
Other individuals identified in the footage are subject to the same data collection process. All who are identified are quarantined and monitored to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The first cases revealed a troubling trend,” said Stockwell. “Contagious individuals were found to have come into contact with hundreds of people. This led to a sharp rise in possible infections on post. From there, we knew we needed to intervene to stem the rise of the virus. Soon after, USFK commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams declared a Public Health Emergency.”
“Contact tracing was our most important effort,” Michael Duncan, the Directorate of Public Works operations officer and a member of the task force, said. “It taught us how the virus spreads, which led to the creation of the public health measures we use today.”
As a result, the rate of new infections plummeted. It has remained consistently low; prevention and containment measures have proven very effective at checking the spread. Today, the total infection rate of USFK’s 58,000-strong population is less than one percent.
“The task force has served as my single source for information and action across the installation,” Tremblay said. “They have capably handled a complex problem set, to the benefit of all.”
According to task force data, USFK remains ahead of the virus. All of the latest cases have arrived from overseas. Each has been transported from the airport to the hospital for testing and treatment. Quarantine or isolation has followed, as required. None have spread the virus any further.
“Task Force 37 led the way in defeating the virus,” Tremblay said. “By doing exceptional work and sharing their methods widely, they set their place at the forefront of the Army’s response. I am immensely proud of them.”