KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – It’s no secret threats to American installations overseas are greater than they are stateside. However, there’s a group of people who are charged with analyzing those dangers and making recommendations to the commander.
The U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Protection Working Group works in conjunction with the Directorate of Emergency Services and other law enforcement agencies to mitigate risks against the Soldiers, employees and infrastructure of the garrison.
“The PWG can change based on the threat analysis,” said Terry Dunlap, USAG RP Emergency Manager. “It might just be our anti-terrorism and military police teams or, in the case of COVID, it might involve representatives of each garrison directorate, maybe 35 people.”
The COVID PWG includes members from all garrison directorates, the Public Health Emergency Officer (a doctor), and Team Trace. The group works together to gather pertinent data on the number of cases both within the military community and in the host nation. The data gathered helps provide a foundation for recommendations to the garrison commander based on his intent to combat the threat.
Protecting the workforce while completing the everyday mission during the pandemic means the PWG meets every day via Microsoft Teams.
“The PWG is extremely important because they are the subject matter experts on how the pandemic affects their organization and how they can affect the mission,” said Ashley Bryles, USAG RP Emergency Manager. “Their feedback is provided directly to the command team and taken into consideration during the commander’s decision-making process.”
Currently, all eyes are on COVID defensive measures and how to try and bring the case numbers down and protect the force. But, other threats are still out there, according to Dunlap, and he said the PWG and the Emergency Operations Center have plans for everything from a pandemic to severe weather and man-made threats.
“If we have credible information about a potential terrorist act against one of our sites for example, we will come together and recommend different force protection measures to the commander,” he said.
Both emergency managers said nobody wants to go back to a pure lockdown like it was in March and April unless absolutely necessary. So the PWG representatives have been trying to find ways to keep services available while still being overly cautious with COVID defensive measures.
“As the numbers continue to rise, we have to increase our defensive measures while we try to keep as many front door services as we can open,” Bryles said. “Unfortunately, we have to recommend some be shut down, but others we recommend keeping open, even if it’s by appointment only.”
Other workforce mitigations efforts include teleworking, changing office hours and placing Plexiglass between customers and service providers.
“Protecting the workforce from a virus is not what most people think about when we think about a protection working group. But right now, it’s our biggest enemy. And we need everyone to do their part in combatting this threat,” Dunlap said.