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Practicing COVID Resilience: How the FED Stays Ahead

Far East District
Published Sept. 3, 2020
Practicing COVID Resilience: How the FED Stays Ahead

Far East District Logo.

From improving warfighter capabilities and laying the foundation for a 216-bedroom housing unit on Camp Humphreys to ensuring the support staff has the capability to work remotely, the Far East District (FED) has not allowed the COVID-19 pandemic to slow them down.

Instead, the district has operated as a unit wrapped in synergy, committed to the safety of its team and the successful completion of its mission. The team has mastered working amidst the varying Health Protection Condition (HPCON) levels they’ve experienced during this Coronavirus pandemic. Always looking to increase productivity, the FED explored and implemented new and non-traditional ways to get the job done.

Supported and empowered by their leaders, FED employees scaled up their office innovations and provided their teams with the guidance required to navigate the uncertainty of continued efficiency during an international pandemic. Divisions and offices were required to review and recalibrate how tasks could be best accomplished but emerged a stronger team equipped to successfully work in socially distant and remote environments.

Lt. Col. Dennis McGee, Deputy Commander, speaks of the FED’s resiliency as he explained their capacity to take the lessons learned from the first HPCON C+ scenario to streamline their contractor access procedures. Navigating the first iteration of the pandemic to get the first 6 – 10 construction sites reopened and up and running with about 500 – 600 contractors took approximately two weeks and close coordination with USFK Transformation and Relocation, Eighth Army, 2nd Infantry Division and the USAG-Humphreys team. 

 “This past week, from Monday’s full shut-down, until yesterday, we had 22 sites opened back up and 1800 contractors back at work. This was literally done in a three-day period. A testament to the District’s ever improving levels of efficiency,” said McGee. “We didn’t exceed 20 sites and 1600 contractors after a month of the contractor escort program during our last scenario. In fact, it wasn’t until we’d returned to HPCON B last May that we exceeded those levels. This effort mostly relied upon the construction division team coupled with heavy involvement from Construction Division Chief, Chad McLeod, and his resident engineers.” 

Here are just some of the district’s accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • FED served as advisor on the engineering, design, and construction of the F-35 bed down
  • USACE completed Phase III of the 3rd Generation Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) at Kunsan Airforce Base
  • Oversaw the concrete placement of over 3000m3 for Camp Humphreys Family Housing Towers
  • Assessed and certified the Ajon University Medical Center’s helipad to support USFK
  • Completed Phase 1 of the Camp Humphreys’ Oil Facility to improve warfighter capabilities

The Corps’ pandemic-proof work model allows its employees the increased flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives while remaining connected to their supervisors and coworkers. Working through the pandemic months ago left the team more than prepared to handle the second bout of teleworking requirements that came along with August’s increased HPCON level.

For example, the logistics department created a plan permitting their team members to alternate in-office coverage. This ensures they have staff present and available to service their customers’ needs at all times.

“Communication is important,” says JJ Lindor, Property Book Officer. “Everyone needs to know their role in every task, so we discuss the things that need to happen and follow-up with an email to make sure all participants see and understand the big picture. The most important lesson learned during this Pandemic is be flexible, because anything can happen.”

“This new normal has also been heavily supported by our IMO team, led by John Howard, Chief of Information Management and their seamless adjustment to the tremendous increase in VPN usage and teleworking requirements,” Lt. Col. McGee says.

In fact, the IMO team has restructured the way their customer service team handles their workload.

“We had many people who didn’t have laptops in customer service, and they couldn’t get on post. Our Customer Service Chief, Kyong In Kim, immediately began thinking of new solutions. He had a teleconference to ascertain the teams needs and then had our employees meet him at the gate to sign out their equipment. We did this from 9 am one morning until 1 pm that day but that’s how we got our people back online. Then we started bringing in 1 – 2 people per day and allow the remainder of our team to telework,” Howard remarked.

The Safety and Operations (SP&O) Team also plays a crucial role in creating and maintaining the Corps’ pandemic proof model. From coordinating the admission and release of new team members in and out of the 14 day quarantine facilities to  managing the flow of information while liaising with the Garrison, 8th Army, USFK, and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Division Headquarters (POD) in Hawaii, the SP&O team  has utilized every available technology to keep the office’s employees informed along the way. Combining information from various sources and stakeholders, the team works diligently to fuse all of that data into user friendly formats that provide the pertinent facts needed to inform the decisions of Far East District leadership.

Capt. Vincent Radish, Operations Officer says, “When this thing first started, we were insanely busy. I was getting a call almost every 10 minutes while working from home. Right now, we’ve done this for long enough that we can focus on supporting the mission by working with the Transformation and Re-stationing Office Fusion Cell to ensure our construction employees can access the installation and continue delivering the mission on the 28 sites we’re currently supporting. Additionally, we have become more adept at integrating the rest of the FED with the messaging we receive from USFK, 8th Army and other entities to make sure the rules they release are being disseminated out to the workforce in a timely manner.”

Lt. Col. McGee says, “The District has really risen to the challenge before us. We have a phenomenal team who have all made individual contributions to the FED that show their commitment to the efficient productivity of our organization and we are thankful for the work that has been displayed.”