Sgt. Dontavian Harrison | Department of Defense

FORT BLISS, Texas The U.S. military is providing support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities respond to COVID-19. Within 48 hours of being notified, a large team from Fort Leavenworth deployed to augment the U.S. Army North staff, helping it grow into a Joint Force Land Component Command to lead the ground response.

Maj. Gen. Doug Crissman, director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, is one of the leads in this effort in a new role as the ARNORTH deputy commanding general for operations.

The Combined Arms Center and its subordinate organizations are engaged in the primary mission of preparing the Army and its leaders for war. Currently, this mission is divided between preparing the Army for large-scale combat operations and transforming it to meet future threats.

One such mission is supporting U.S. Army North, as U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Land Force Component Command, in COVID-19 response operations.

This unprecedented COVID-19 response is exactly what those assigned to CAC train for on a daily basis. The organization brings leader development, doctrine, education, lessons learned, functional training, training support, training development, and proponent responsibilities together in order to support mission command. It prepares the Army to successfully conduct unified land operations in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, multinational environment.

Maj. Ben Maher is currently on the forefront of planning assets for the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 response. He executes the detailed planning for the employment of Title 10 forces, active-duty Department of Defense personnel, in response to requests for assistance from FEMA and state governments.

“This entails collaborative planning with U.S. Northern Command, regional task forces, and numerous interagency partners,” Maher said.

He currently serves in Operations Group Bravo, Mission Command Training Program, at Fort Leavenworth.

Maj. Chris Watkins is the lead military lessons learned representative from the Center for Army Lessons Learned embedded within the ARNORTH staff. His focus is sharing knowledge amongst the command so that his team can continue to adapt and improve to meet COVID19 response needs.

“Within this goal there are two lines of effort,” Watkins said. “First is a short-term ‘down and in’ effort to capture operational-tactical level lessons and best practices that assist the Joint Forces Land Component Command in accomplishing the current mission, and enhancing its capability for responding to a future similar event.”

Watkins said the second is a mid-to long-term “up and out” effort developed to capture operationalstrategic level observations that drive Army change.

Watkins currently serves as the primary link between the COVID-19 response efforts within ARNORTH and CALL efforts underway at Fort Leavenworth.

There is planning, and then there is strategizing. Lt. Col. Kevin White is the strategic planner in the ARNORTH Commanders Action Group. He works alongside Lt. Col. Brett Mardis, directly supporting the ARNORTH commanding general.

“We support the CG to inform her written and verbal communication to both the internal and external audiences, to include strategic engagements,” White said.

White is a doctrine author at Fort Leavenworth, where he is able to see the connection between the publications as they are written versus how they are using them during an actual event.

Maj. Craig Arnold is serving as an operations officer in the Joint Operations Center during the COVID-19 response.

His specific responsibilities are reviewing reports from task forces assigned to the 10 FEMA regions across the continental United States, as well as other subordinate units deployed in support of the COVID-19 response.

“The JOC’s purpose is to provide a focal point for the operational employment of nationwide forces,” Arnold said. “We enable the JFLCC commander to integrate forces and equipment with our partners into nationwide COVID-19 response operations.”

The ARNORTH team has responded across the nation by deploying forces to areas of interest that were either already experiencing medical requirements that exceeded the capacity of the local providers, as well as monitoring models to anticipate the next location that would require assistance.

With all these assets together, Crissman has been able to work with ARNORTH in coordination with FEMA and local authorities to coordinate the deployment of DoD assets to locations and facilities where they’re needed most.

“The nationwide response to this pandemic has been a complex operation and no easy task.” Crissman said. “As always, our military has risen to the challenge and I have no doubt we will prevail in this fight against COVID19. Our collective efforts — clearly supported by the augmentation of personnel from across (Training and Doctrine Command) and the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth are making a difference.”


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