HONOLULU - SARS Team Six was formally recognized with the 4th Quarter and Fiscal Year 2020 Wolf Pack Awards for their support as the lead clinical testing team for COVID-19 for U.S. Forces Japan during a virtual ceremony Jan. 19.
The Wolf Pack Award recognizes exceptional teamwork by an integrated group of military and civilian team members focused on excellence in support of Army Medicine.
Sponsored by the Army Medical Department Civilian Corps, the award recognizes and celebrates the success of teams throughout Army Medicine.
Comprised of medical professionals from U.S. Army Public Health Command-Pacific, U.S. Army Public Health Activity-Japan, U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Naval Health Research Center, and 1st Area Medical Laboratory, the team was honored by Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, Army Medical Command, Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle; and Army Medicine Chief of Staff and Chief of the AMEDD Civilian Corps Richard Beauchemin for their outstanding efforts in the battle against COVID-19.
“Your aggressive teamwork and focused mindset resulted in the saving of lives,” said Dingle. “You truly embody the motto, ‘To Conserve Fighting Strength;’ it’s what you did as you did a phenomenal job and showed us all the importance of modified surveillance as we dealt with SARS-CoV-2 and how it impacts readiness.”
The planning for SARS Team Six began in early February 2020 as word of an emerging human pathogen began to make global news.
“Back when COVID started on the mainland there was really no single laboratory that met all of the requirements for clinical COVID testing,” explained Beauchemin. “By creating a small team of military and civilians, your team overcame barriers to include equipment and time to meet the demands of the senior mission commander.”
On March 17, 2020, SARS Team Six assembled at the Naval Health Research Center Satellite Laboratory at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka.
The initial team of three personnel integrated a spectrum of backgrounds: an Army officer biochemist, an Army civilian microbiologist, and a Navy contractor. The Army team brought with them critical equipment needed for expanded molecular testing.
Three days later, after an accelerated training and validation period, SARS Team Six began receiving samples. Less than a week later, SARS Team Six reported the first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in U.S. Forces Japan.
After the first confirmed case, demand on the team grew exponentially.
Although SARS Team Six lacked automated virus extraction equipment to aid in testing, the team pressed forward to prevent a second Navy aircraft carrier in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command from becoming non-mission capable.
From March 20 to April 30, the three-person team manually extracted and analyzed samples from over 550 patients. The group quickly adapted to a challenging work environment with a rapid operational tempo.
During a period when many labs worldwide struggled to meet the growing demand for testing, SARS Team Six maintained turnaround time. The team’s dedication, technical competence, and distributed leadership allowed for 100% analysis of samples within 24 hours of receipt.
As demand for testing increased, SARS Team Six was augmented by two Soldiers from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory and a Naval Reservist activated to support USNH Yokosuka.
Together, SARS Team Six tested over 3,500 individual patients for COVID-19, and even prevented a wide-scale outbreak on USS Ronald Reagan between March and September.
“This teamwork enabled public health teams to identify COVID-19 clusters, which allowed U.S. Forces in Japan to maintain posture throughout the PACOM AOR,” said Beauchemin. “SARS Team Six worked effortlessly to continue not only to complete a successful mission, but added to Army Medicine tradition of excellence.”
Col. Elba Villacorta, commander of Public Health Command-Pacific, congratulated the team on its achievement.
“On behalf Brig. Gen. Davis, Command Sgt. Maj. Neufville, and Sgt. Maj. Hailey, we are very proud of each of you and your outstanding achievements,” Villacorta said. “The team’s exceptional contributions enabled critical, in-country testing for the DoD community in Japan, maintaining the health of the community and having a direct impact on operations.”
The members of SARS Team Six truly embody the PHC-P credo of “100/0!” which means 100 percent accountability and responsibility and zero excuses for not giving your best every day.
To learn more about the Army Wolf Pack Award visit: https://ameddciviliancorps.amedd.army.mil/wolf-pack-award