U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys, Republic of Korea – Hard times always reveal true friends and it will also show what a strong alliance looks like.
From the beginning of the global pandemic known as COVID-19 U.S. Forces Korea has been working with multiple local national agencies and organizations in Republic of Korea to form a united front and fight against the disease. As one of the largest medical asset in USFK, the 549th Hospital Center and Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital has been the pivotal figure of ROK-US COVID-19 response.
Since USFK received and started inoculating the COVID-19 vaccine throughout its military installations first in Republic of Korea, the 549th HC/BDAACH has been sharing practical knowledge and experience with Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and Republic of Korea Army to provide support for successful roll out of COVID-19 vaccine (COVAX) in Republic of Korea.
The 549th HC/BDAACH first hosted a tour of USFK’s COVID-19 disease response key facilities to the International Affairs team of the KDCA on January 29, 2021. The team was able to see operations of the Reception Center, the Isolation Facility, the Laboratory and a negative pressure room in the Hospital, and the COVID vaccination center. BDAACH shared information on current COVID-19 testing capabilities, management and treatment of positive COVID-19 cases, and the on-going vaccination effort.
The exchange of knowledge and experience was extended to not only the Korean government agency but also to the military sector of Republic of Korea. The 549th HC/BDAACH commander and leadership attended a virtual conference with ROK Army Surgeon General and Armed Forces Medical Center staff on the COVAX mission on February 2, 2021.
During the conference, Col. Huy Q. Luu, the 549th HC/BDAACH Commander, shared the organization’s COVAX processes, challenges, insights while ROKA Medical Command shared their plan for future COVAX mission in support of KDCA’s inoculation plan. Key planning factors and lessons learned were also exchanged to ensure the COVAX mission success for ROKA future vaccination operations.
Following this conference, 549th HC/BDAACH commander hosted ROK Brig. Gen. Beom Man Ha, ROK Army Surgeon General and the ROK Armed Forces Medical Command team for a tour of the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine operations, and visited the COVID-19 Vaccination Center on Feb. 18, 2021. The ROK medical team was able to see USFK’s vaccination efforts first hand. This was a great opportunity to share the techniques, procedures and lessons learned from the US perspective that will help enable success for the ROK’s future vaccine operation.
Luu also emphasized the unique opportunity that ROK Army nurses, as part of the Integrated Service of Republic of Korea Military Health Care Personnel Program, are developing expertise that they will bring back to the ROKA. For 66 years, Korean Army nurses have rotated every six months with BDAACH to share in medical training. The ISRMHCPP was established in 1955 to facilitate wartime coordination between the U.S. and ROK military health care support system in the event of hostilities. This year, those ROK nurses are actively involved in the 549th HC/BDAACH’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts including testing and vaccinations. This is the epitome of ROK-US medical alliance.
“COVID-19 has been bringing constant challenges but it also opened up an opportunity for us to collaborate and connect with our host nation, Republic of Korea on many ways that we haven’t before” said Luu. “We will continue to exchange our knowledge and experience on the fight against the COVID-19 mitigation including the vaccine operations.”
The 549th HC/BDAACH in U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys has been selected by DOD as one of the initial vaccination sites to validate distribution, administration, and reporting processes for the new vaccine. The COVID-19 Vaccine team (Task Force COVAX) initiated inoculations on December 29, 2021 and has been rolling out the vaccine on a phased approach following USFK priority group schema. The Task Force has been sending out Tiger Teams out to outlying locations including U.S. Army Garrison Casey, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, and Chinhae Naval Base to provide vaccination to eligible USFK Personnel. Recently the main vaccination team expanded its services and opened up the COVID-19 Vaccination Center in USAG-Humphreys to accommodate the maximum vaccination.