CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — For the members of the 61st CBRN company on U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, their day begins when most are crawling into bed because they are tasked with a mission unique to the times — stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Eighty individuals from the 61st CBRN company, 2nd Infantry Division, including officers, noncommissioned officers and junior-enlisted Soldiers make up Team Clean.
Cpt. Jewlianna Serrano, the company commander of the 61st CBRN company, said the team was formed, and her company designated, in response to the virus when the 2nd Infantry Division realized it needed a dedicated team always ready to go. The team was officially formed in March 2020 when the pandemic first started to escalate.
“Looking across all the different CBRN companies, it just made more sense for one company to take ownership of that team and become the subject matter experts in that particular mission set,” Serrano said.
Another benefit of having a designated team is the ability to react as quickly as possible when an area has been contaminated. This allows everyone on base to resume normal operations as quickly as possible, said 1st Sgt. Brandon Carey, senior enlisted advisor for the 61st CBRN Company, 2nd Infantry Division.
When the idea of Team Clean was still new, there were a few obstacles to overcome in order to execute the mission. One main issue proved to be the shortage of personal protective equipment on base. In order to combat this issue, resources were consolidated and utilized by the designated sanitation unit.
“Getting a bunch of teams ready to clean on post was actually really hard because masks, gowns and gloves were all really short on numbers,” Serrano said. “So they decided to grab all of that and put it on one team, one unit and go from there.”
Eighty people in the company are broken up into eight teams. The teams are on a rotating schedule in order to ensure there are always Soldiers ready to go when needed. Along with nightly cleaning of the quarantine barracks and the in-processing center, individuals are constantly on standby to clean places like the Post Exchange and the commissary. Team Clean is also prepared at a moment's notice to go to installations like Yongsan to complete missions elsewhere on post.
In order to be mission prepared, team members don surgical gloves, scrubs, eye protection and masks. Then, armed with their bleach spray, wipes, soap, mops and mop buckets filled with disinfectant, the group begins cleaning.
The nightly sanitization covers all rooms in the quarantine barracks where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 as well as the Camp Humphreys in-processing station.
“We disinfect the rooms where the positive cases were and sometimes do the commissary or PX depending on where the positive case was,” said Pfc. Cole Balsizer, a CBRN specialist with the 61st CBRN Company who has been on the team for six months.
Everyone is on a four-hour recall in case common areas on Camp Humphreys need to be cleaned unexpectedly. However, the team has become so efficient it doesn’t need all four hours to respond; it takes no more than two hours to have the team cleaning when a positive case is traced on post, Serrano said.
Mitigating the spread of the virus is a big task that has a significant trickle-down effect to every individual on base. Team Clean’s work keeps everyone living and working on post safe.
“I believe it’s important because it helps reduce the exposure rate here on Camp Humphreys and helps keep Soldiers and their families healthy and able to complete their mission that is needed here in Korea,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Johnston, a CBRN specialist with the 61st CBRN Company and a team leader for the Team Clean mission.
Everyone on USAG Humphreys is important in the fight against COVID-19, and by following simple procedures like signing into public places, everyone can help keep each other safe.
“The clean team is important to protect our bubble,” Carey said when stating the importance of everyone being proactive in the fight against COVID-19. “Follow the core tenets to help keep us safe.”