Editor's Note: This is the second article in a four-part series on Army Materiel Command's support to the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This installment is focused on protecting the workforce and quality of life.
(REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.) – The Army Materiel Command enterprise continues its fight against COVID-19 and since April has implemented several measures throughout its offices, garrisons, depots, ammunition plants and arsenals to protect its workforce while meeting mission requirements for the Army and nation.
Several policies and procedures implemented at the AMC headquarters, including maximum use of telework, wearing face coverings in common areas and social distancing, have been beneficial in reducing the risk of exposure to the workforce, said Col. Matt Hoefer, AMC command surgeon. He recommended employees follow similar practices when working from home, as well as following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and any state and local requirements.
“Carry the standards at work into your home life, such as wear a mask, wash your hands, etc., and that will be very beneficial. And if you are not feeling well, then don’t come to work,” said Hoefer.
Maximum telework and safety precautions have been effective both in protecting the workforce and in accomplishing the mission, said Maj. Gen. Robert Harter, AMC chief of staff, in a July 30 email to the workforce.
“Our command operational tempo remains high and you are making a difference. Our Army and nation needs your expertise, so remain laser focused on AMC priorities and continue to challenge the status quo,” Harter wrote.
Other AMC organizations have adopted similar workforce protection measures tailored to their operating environment and mission requirements. For example, the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity placed 85% of its headquarters workforce on telework, using conference calls and video meetings to continue the mission.
“This virus has made a huge impact on everyone's lives, but the CMA workforce has continued to adapt and complete our mission,” said Laurence Gottschalk, acting director of CMA. “We welcomed a new commander at Blue Grass Chemical Activity during a ceremony streamed on Facebook Live, and CMA's director, Col. Kelso C. Horne III, retired after a 27-year Army career, commemorated via VTC.”
When personnel from the Joint Munitions Command headquarters were asked to start performing their daily duties from home due to the virus, they did not expect to be working directly with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required to protect the members of the JMC enterprise and other AMC customers. Working remotely, an eight-person team processed to date over 90 orders for 77,259 cloth face coverings and 2,383 gallons of hand sanitizer. This critical equipment was shipped to sites in the U.S. and overseas, providing personnel with the required protective equipment needed to continue their mission-essential work. The face coverings were developed and produced at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas, while the hand sanitizer was produced at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Oklahoma, and Crane Army Ammunition Activity, Indiana.
In addition to protecting its workforce during COVID-19, AMC has made progress in providing for the quality of life of those who live and work on its more than 75 installations worldwide. AMC is directly responsible for four of five of Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville’s quality of life priorities, including providing safe and secure housing, available and affordable child care, spouse employment opportunities and a seamless permanent change of station (PCS) process.
“While we’re certainly reevaluating our environment based on the impacts of COVID-19, we haven’t taken our eyes off our people, especially in these four key areas,” said Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, IMCOM commanding general, in a July interview. “We will continue to adapt these quality-of-life initiatives and make them even stronger moving forward. There’s no alternative.”
According to IMCOM, overall 67% of Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs and services are currently open at full or reduced capacity, including child development centers, school age centers, fitness centers and Army Community Services programs and offices.
While movement restrictions have slowed a typically busy summer PCS season, Soldiers, civilians and families are still moving between installations for mission–essential assignments and training. Since late March, more than 33,000 Soldiers have moved for training, and at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 854 Command and General Staff College students are expected to arrive in the coming weeks in addition to regular permanent party moves.
To facilitate a safe PCS for service members, civilians and families, moving companies are ensuring their employees wear face coverings, reducing crew sizes to enable social distancing, routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces and practicing good hand hygiene.
IMCOM is also taking steps to ensure housing is clean, safe and ready for Soldiers and families at each installation. The Army has recently hired 107 housing management specialists and established responsive 24-hour hotlines at each installation for housing issues.
Increased quality of life is directly tied to increased Army readiness, and AMC is committed to delivering the best programs and services to Soldiers, civilians and families, said Harter.