BUILDING STRONG. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consistently lives up to that motto with approximately 37,000 dedicated civilians and Soldiers delivering engineering services to customers in more than 130 countries worldwide every single day.
COVID-19 has caused unimaginable changes to our lifestyles, attitudes about social interaction, hygiene and overall priorities. People are self-quarantining and avoiding human contact beyond immediate family members; large numbers of workers, those who still have jobs, are teleworking from their homes; major life milestones have been postponed or cancelled, such as graduations, celebrations, weddings and even funerals.
USACE, including the Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) has continued their on-going mission while also assisting the nation and numerous federal agencies in this time of crisis, BUILDING STRONG through deeds, not words.
The Middle East District is headquartered in Winchester, Va., with offices throughout the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility in the Middle East and Central Asia. They provide engineering, construction, and related services to customers and partners throughout that region. TAM’s work includes designing and constructing facilities for use by U.S. forces, performing engineering activities for other U.S. government and foreign agencies, and providing operations and maintenance services for various customers.
“We don't have the luxury of waiting out COVID-19,” said TAM Commander Col. Philip Secrist when he initiated maximum telework of Team TAM. “Our mission partners are counting on us to continue to deliver during this challenging time.”
Projects still need to be completed on time and Team TAM is doing whatever it can to do that. Our team in Winchester, including project management, contracting professionals, legal advisors and more, coordinates through teleworking members and others deemed mission essential working from the TAM headquarters. Contracts are awarded and project milestones are being met. The District continues to serve our U.S. and allied mission partners.
At TAM field offices, work continues, with many health and safety precautions added to the daily routines.
Mark Wittrock, Bahrain Area/Resident Engineer said, “We are all doing our part to protect others, even when we cannot maintain the 1-fathem [six foot] distance while operating/riding our Low Speed Vehicles to the job sites.”
The list of essential office supplies required for daily activity through the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved. Bahrain Resident Office has an IP communicator, which is essential for many mandatory and daily conference calls. “And I’ve borrowed my son’s wireless head phones and he may find them someday,” Wittrock said, chuckling to himself.
They keep decontamination spray on hand for the minimum once daily wipe down of the entire office. Decontamination wipes, face mask and anti-bacterial hand gel for travel outside of the decontaminated area. They bring coffee from their house instead of making it at the office.”
A program manager’s wife, Emma Wanamaker, made face masks for everyone in the office.
While maximizing teleworking and staying socially separated, there are several necessary phones needed to keep in touch with the far-flung team members.
“I have my Saudi cell phone nearby to stay in touch with the Saudi teammates since I cannot cross the border now,” said Wittrock. “And my U.S. cell phone to stay in touch with the TAM team in Winchester, Va., plus the Bahrain cell phone to both stay in touch with Bahrain teammates and to use for taking pictures when needed.
“For non-sensitive information exchanges, we use several different group chats,” said Wittrock. “A specific Bahrain Resident Office group chat for our daily personnel status/COVID-19 check-ins. And our KAS Artillery Group chat is an effective tool for project updates and communicating among the project team members.”
The TAM offices are also doing their best to ensure that the contractors working for USACE are safe. This includes implementing techniques and tactics such as social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment, and establishing decontamination stations throughout the job site.
TAM team members, in Winchester and throughout our field offices, are doing their part to keep themselves and others safe and healthy while still delivering engineering and construction services to all our mission partners and stakeholders throughout the Middle East region.
BUILDING STRONG: It’s not just a motto.