In honor and appreciation of National Nurses Week, May 6 – 12, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Far East District (FED) reflects on the contributions of those serving on the front lines of the pandemic and how COVID-19 has impacted the District and every FED project site in South Korea.
After the spread of COVID-19, FED personnel adjusted operations to ensure a safe and hygienic environment for job site workers. An abundance of caution was taken to “kill the virus” and “flatten the curve.”
According to Andrew Rajala, Humphreys Area Office area engineer, a bubble-to-bubble concept was implemented at each job site. Contractor personnel have continued to travel from the gate to the job site only, minimizing risk for everyone on and off the base or installation.
Ongoing tracking of all personnel through daily sign-in logs, wear of PPE (personal protective equipment) in accordance with health protection (HPCON) guidelines, and additional guidelines identified in the contractor’s safety plans continue to be executed at every project site.
“While most civilians at USAG Humphreys were teleworking or on admin leave, last year,” said Aaron Schuff, resident engineer, “FED construction staff woke up very early and arrived on-site to direct traffic and conduct accountability calls for FED contractor convoys. This was done every day, including weekends and holidays.”
Project sites that were also occupied by U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) personnel were handled with strategic care to meet mission requirements.
“During HPCON Charlie, some project sites involved renovations of facilities that were occupied by installation staff,” said Chad McLeod, FED Construction chief. “To keep our workers in a bubble, separate from USFK personnel, we developed FED and Garrison-approved isolation plans; building separate entry points and installing barriers.”
FED also collaborated with the Ministry of National Defense - Defense Installation Agency, USFK Transformation and Restationing, Program Management Consortium, and contractors to develop standard operating procedures under HPCON Charlie and Bravo.
“Korean contractors have done an outstanding job of implementing COVID measures on their construction sites,” said McLeod. “At the first hint of concern with potential COVID contact, the contractors go above and beyond by shutting down work, testing and isolating anyone that may be exposed to the virus, and starting back only after all potential contacts are cleared by the appropriate health professionals.”
Kim Moo, senior construction representative for the FED Pyeongtaek Resident Office, highlighted the many projects completed in the past year, as they persevered through COVID-19 adjustments.
“Due to the quick reaction of contractors and FED employees, many Humphreys Garrison top-priority projects were completed on time to include: the Humphreys Army Wellness Center, a Humphreys round-a-bout road project, completion of the USFK Visitor Center, and the Morning Calm Community Center parking lot,” he replied.
Over the last year and a half, FED has continued to refine procedures to minimize impact on construction projects.
“Even though implementing those measures resulted in increased stress, seeing the capability of our FED construction staff in action was a thrill,” said Schuff. “It was truly the best of times and the worst of times.”
Currently, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineer’s participation and support of the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness supports the whole-of-nation effort to ensure that safe and effective medical products are provided rapidly to the American people.