KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The Department of Defense’s top priorities have not changed since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, protection of the force and families, safeguarding of mission capabilities or readiness and closely working with partners and allies to fight COVID-19 head on.
The 83rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 7th Mission Support Command, in conjunction with other United States Army Europe units and the USO, have partnered to safely introduce Soldiers to the European theater. The mission, known as Task Force Wilkommen, began in early March led by the 39th Movement Control Battalion.
“The 83rd took over the mission June 15,” said Maj. Jayson Cummins, TF Wilkommen support operations officer. “Task Force Wilkommen is a group comprised to facilitate the in-processing of personnel coming in from CONUS.”
Units involved in such a collaboration include United States Army Europe, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 7th Mission Support Command and the 83rd CSSB, to name a few.
“There’s also the 1st HRSC, the 30th Medical Brigade, the 21st STB and our partners at the 16th Sustainment Brigade,” Cummins said. “It takes a lot of coordination and de-confliction on quantities, amounts and timelines.”
Cummins said the process from the time a Soldier lands in Germany takes approximately 14 days until they are safely pushed to their next assignment.
“We identify the Soldiers we are taking into possession, we get their luggage, put them on buses and they are transported over here to Rhine Ordnance Barracks,” Cummins said, while talking about the Deployment Processing Center located within ROB. “The first night at ROB, they are assigned a PHA or a housing area, and they are hard-quarantined for three days.”
One of the first orders of business during the process is a COVID test. Results typically come back in 24 to 48 hours, according to Cummins. When results come back negative, the balance of protecting the force and quality of life kick in, but the restriction on movement remains in effect for the entire duration of the 14 day stay. The Soldiers are not free to leave the DPC, other than to gather comfort items, where they are marched to and from the nearby coffee shop and shoppette.
“It is what you make it,” said Pfc. Christopher Williams, DPC resident and Mobile, Alabama native. “The cadre, they listen to you. Things they can do in their power; they will make sure they do it.”
The DPC, completely enclosed by fencing, is designed to temporarily house transient service members passing through U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz. It was recently retrofitted for the purpose of quarantine and in-processing. There are multiple buildings called personnel holding areas, but during unprecedented times there are bound to be struggles.
“One of the biggest challenges we faced so far was our first positive case,” Cummins said. “The plan that was in place on identifying that Soldier, separating them from their group, doing another test and then transporting that individual to an isolation barracks for another 14 days for observation, but we figured it out.”
The goal of TF Wilkommen is to provide a safe and isolated environment for Soldiers in between the United States and their final destination.
“The exit strategy for the Soldiers usually occurs about day 12,” Cummins said. “They are given another COVID test, and once we identify they have been given a clean bill of health on day 14, they are all separated, put back on buses and sent to their garrisons throughout Germany or Italy.”
Task Force Wilkommen will remain in effect, indefinitely, providing service in support of United States Army Europe, host nation countries and even the individual.
“I am looking forward to going to my unit,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a fun experience.”