WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Senior leaders from Wright-Patterson are considering the necessary actions needed so the base and its 30,000-member workforce may eventually return to full capacity in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A plan supporting reconstitution of base operations through three phases of progress has been drafted by the installation COVID-19 Incident Command Center with input from the base Emergency Operations Center, Crisis Action team, mission commanders, medical officials and mission partners across the base.
“It is a process that will be measured in weeks and months as the ICC continues to monitor the number of positive COVID-19 cases being reported within Ohio, local communities, and those being tracked by base medical center professionals,” said Col. Tom Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, in an April 24 email to the base workforce.
“When we return to full capacity it will not be what it was pre-COVID-19,” Sherman said. “The ‘new normal’ is being defined as our team is working in conjunction with mission commanders to set the conditions and the tempo of this return.”
Reconstitution of base operations will be a phased approach, with the primary focus being the safety and security of all personnel and mission needs. The reconstitution plan will utilize three distinct phases, following the White House plan and ideally in step with the state of Ohio.
“We will provide guidelines that will need to be adhered to and milestones for mission commanders as we gradually bring employees back to the base. This will be a progressive effort with what we know today, but will be based on facts and metrics that show a decline in risk to exposure to the virus,” said Sherman.
Under Phase I, things won’t likely look much different to base personnel than what they do now.
“Our best defense is still going to be social distancing, tele-work, staggered schedules, and a priority for identifying mission critical personnel,” Sherman said.
Sherman added that the base may need to flex its response as the situation evolves over time, especially as some experts point to a likely resurgence down the road after social distancing restrictions are lifted.
“The ability to test is a key component in this. Right now, across the country, we do not have the capability to test everyone we would like to. We continue to build capability through science, procurement of new equipment, and avenues to test, but those options will take time to fully meet the demand.”
“There are some mission critical things that aren’t quite being done yet, but many others that have continued through the crisis,” said William Neitzke, of the Incident Command Center plans cell.
“We’re not quite sure of the timing yet, be we are sure we’re going to return to full capacity incrementally. We have the safety and health of our employees at the forefront of our considerations, so we’ll open up a little bit and watch and see what happens. We want to be able to go forward slowly, and backwards if we need to, and maybe we can do a little more. We don’t want to overwhelm any systems or cause ourselves to get into a bad spot.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, in a press conference he held April 27, provided some details of the state’s plan to open Ohio up again.
“We won’t match up exactly, but we need to be good neighbors. A good example of that is the 14-day quarantine. That was not mandated by the Department of Defense or the Air Force. That was mandated by the state of Ohio and we’ve done our best to honor it for folks coming into the state where we can,” Neitzke said.
All the commanders are developing plans based on the information they have, Neitzke added. “We’re trying to help them with some guidance and understand what they need and require in order to make this work.”
Tune in to the 88th Air Base Wing commander’s weekly Facebook Live town hall with Col. Sherman and senior members of his staff at www.facebook.com/wpafb on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. for the latest updates and to let Col. Sherman hear from you. Those with questions may submit them to the 88th Public Affairs office at 88ABW.PA@US.AF.MIL
Please also stay up to speed with the latest information on Wright-Patterson’s website at www.wpafb.af.mil/coronavirus.