WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (May 26, 2021) – On March 16, 2020, Brig. Gen. David Trybula, former White Sands Missile Range commander, went down to the Public Affairs Office to shoot a video providing the installation and the surrounding community information on the Coronavirus. What began as a few videos to answer questions and provide guidance to employees and residents became an ambitious COVID-19 communication effort that is still going strong 14 months later and produced 170 videos while he was in command.
Trybula chose to share videos rather than written updates because he felt that seeing another person during the confusing early days of COVID-19 would be more effective and reassuring.
“It was important that folks understood where I was and what was going on,” said Trybula, who relinquished command of White Sands Missile Range to Brig. Gen. Eric D. Little on May 20, 2021. “Early on during the pandemic, I was quarantined, and I think it was important that people saw I was okay while in isolation.”
For the first two months, Trybula posted a video every day, including weekends, where he would film the video of himself on an iPhone from his home on the installation. Several months later, he reduced the videos to three days a week. Currently, videos are posted weekly.
“Being predictable during a time of unpredictability is extraordinarily important. That is part of the reason I was slow to reduce the number of videos per week. That is also why I have been in as many of the videos as I have; being a steady influence during this time is incredibly important,” said Trybula.
The battle rhythm to produce the videos is labor-intensive and involves teamwork from many across the installation. For instance, Trybula had a panel of advisors to provide him their expertise on what to discuss during the videos and to answer the community's questions. His panel included leadership from McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic, U.S. Army Garrison White Sands Missile Range, White Sands Test Center, White Sands Navy Detachment, and other representatives.
“Every day was making sure we had a pulse on what was going on, and as we got updates and we were learning more, we were having that conversation and sharing the information,” said Trybula. “The videos may be short, but it takes a large amount of effort to put them together. It also takes a lot of effort to keep people informed and think about the words you are saying and using so they are not open to interpretation. Your words need to provide clarification and not confuse people.”
After talking points were established, Trybula’s office became a makeshift video studio with lighting and audio equipment. Once the video was shot, the footage was edited and posted online for the community and anyone interested in viewing the same day.
“It’s not just White Sands Missile Range that watches them; it’s also folks who have relatives living here and many others. We get feedback from across the world,” said Trybula. “It is incredible to have that effect with the information we are sharing, doing the right things and mitigating the risk where we can, and we are protecting each one of the important people we have here at White Sands.”
Trybula's next assignment is as Deputy Commanding General, Combat Capabilities Development Directorate; and senior commander, Natick Soldier Systems Center, U.S. Army Futures Command, Natick, Massachusetts. He will take the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic with him, where he learned that it is all about people and taking care of one another.
"People will step up and surprise you in terms of doing the hard thing to take care of the greater community,” said Trybula. “While COVID has made it hard to keep our humanity, in many ways, it's emphasized our humanity and the goodness of people.”
The Army's mission to protect the force and support the national effort to fight against the COVID-19 virus continues. Little who took command of the installation less than a week ago shared his first weekly video on May 25, 2021, sustaining the communication efforts for the White Sands Missile Range community.