USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Even when COVID-19 quarantines of personnel were at their highest, and non-mission essential personnel were isolated in their barracks rooms, the mission for 532nd Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, 501st MI Brigade, had to go on and part of that mission was continuing to train their personnel.
During this time, Soldiers, Civilians and contractors from across the installation were hard hit as individuals from the Humphreys community tested positive for the virus and those that had come in contact with those individuals were subject to quarantine procedures to limit spread of the disease.
1st Sgt. William Latta, first sergeant, Alpha Company, said that many people in the battalion were at least temporarily taken out of the fight. Add to that the restrictions put on during Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie Plus and they couldn’t conduct their scheduled training in the traditional way.
Latta continued, explaining that his two primary Master Resilience Training (MRT) trainers saw these issues and took the initiative to use technology to reach their Soldiers in the distributed digital environment meeting the requirement for social distancing as well as enabling them to reach Soldiers in quarantine. Using the Microsoft Teams application, they were able to conduct virtual classes for timely MRT to hit skills Soldiers needed during times of isolation.
“The idea came from our platoon sergeant,” Staff Sgt. Caleb Lux, imagery intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge for Alpha Company. “He was trying to figure out a way that we could get all the Soldiers trained, but we were all on different shifts and minimal manning. So, we came up with the idea to create a training roster using digital signatures, that way Soldiers had to use their CAC card to sign after completing the class.”
Lux said then the classes were built in PowerPoint and tailored to the topics they thought would be the most beneficial to the Soldiers resiliency needs at the time.
“A lot of people got put in quarantine for two plus weeks,” said Lux. “Other Soldiers weren’t in quarantine, but they weren’t seeing a lot of their friends either because they were keeping the social distance required by the HPCON. Being at minimal manning and on different schedules from normal, they were going through a lot of changes. So, we put together three different classes from the 14 skills we considered important when you are dealing with these types of issues. We covered putting it in perspective, using mental games to regain focus and real-time resiliency to combat anxiety and counterproductive thinking.”
Sgt. Tyler White, a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst for Alpha Company, said they took the highlights from those blocks of training and broke them down in a way to make them more digestible to the Soldiers.
“By taking those highlights, identifying what was important, applicable and almost enjoyable to the Soldiers, it really hits them when they need it a lot more and breaks down barriers they’re going to put up in that situation,” said White.
“Initially, the training was just the PowerPoint slides, but as COVID-19 continued, we decided there needed to be more,” said White. “By creating videos and changing it up so you can look at my smiling face talking to you about MRT from the comfort of your barracks room helped to drive the point home. It also allowed the training to hit more than just one sense. They could hear and see the presentations.”
Lux said they are continuing to refine the videos and the process, but feels that the Soldiers have benefited from having another way access the lessons during trying times.
Command Sgt. Maj. Wesley Davis, command sergeant major, 532nd MI Battalion, said he thought the videos were a great idea. “It surprises me how much, if you just let Soldiers be innovative, they’ll come up with. A lot of times, if you just get out of their way, they’ll do incredible things you would have never thought of.”
“A lot of people will say Soldiers these days aren’t communicating, they don’t talk to each other, but I think they just do it in a different way,” said Davis. “So, I don’t discount human interaction, face-to-face, but I think a lot of people these days, especially the younger folks, are more comfortable interacting online, so it’s another way to reach them.”
The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces that could threaten the tense but stable peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade’s mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.