By Maj. Brandon Mace
| 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) | April 7, 2020
U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Sue Henderson, 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) commanding general, receives an update briefing on the unit’s COVID-19 response efforts from her staff at the unit's headquarters in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, March 29, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Brandon R. Mace) (Photo by Maj. Brandon Mace)
While many are hunkering down across the nation, members of the U.S. Army Reserve's 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) are joining the ranks of essential personnel as they stand up to support the military’s response to COVID-19.
In addition to the medical capability the U.S. military is bringing to the fight against COVID-19, they also have a robust logistics capability, and that’s where a unit like the 4th ESC comes in. U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Sue Henderson, 4th ESC’s commanding general, says her team is ready for this mission.
“We are providing logistics and sustainment support in areas where FEMA is asking us to go,” said Henderson. “Our command has already been supporting U.S. Northern Command for Defense Support of Civil Authorities or DSCA missions, so we were ready with a quick response.”
The ability to respond quickly is important in crisis situations like this, and the only way to respond quickly is to have a trained and ready team, a prime reason the Army is so focused on the readiness of Soldiers and units.
“We are always thinking about readiness, and this mission demonstrates why it is so important,” said Henderson. “It's having equipment ready to roll, Soldiers trained and ready to do their jobs, and Army Families ready to have their loved ones away from home for a little while. That high level of readiness is why we were able to stand up and respond to this mission."
Henderson's units are providing logistical and sustainment support, the direct life support needed to keep the mission going. It is this work behind the scenes that allows the front-line forces to focus on their missions.
"When troops on the front lines need supplies, we respond and provide that support,” said Henderson. “We bring a lot to the fight as Army Reserve Soldiers providing skill sets that make us unique for this mission.”
This focus on the mission doesn’t mean protecting the force from COVID-19 takes a back seat but quite the opposite. In all military operations, when risk goes up, Soldiers take steps to mitigate that risk, and that means thinking creatively to stay safe. U.S. Army Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Lopes, the 4th ESC's senior noncommissioned officer, said the unit is injecting extra health and safety precautions into all operations.
"When we are called to do a mission, whether it's away or at home, we come together to accomplish that mission, that's what we do," said Lopes, "We are taking extra steps too, so we don't get sick ourselves and can't help those who need us. We are creating social distance, washing our hands often, and not touching our faces.”
Normally the 4th ESC would set up a shoulder-to-shoulder tactical operations center in one large room to bring the entire team together in one space, but that’s not a great idea right now. Instead, the unit has spread work spaces throughout their reserve center and in tents and trailers around their building.
“When we make a plan to set up operations, that is a guide, that is a starting place,” said Lopes. “Just like any other mission, we take our plan, we look at the environment, and we adapt. That is how we get the job done.”
Leaders are also leveraging telephonic and video conferences in place of face to face meetings. It can take a little adjustment at first, but that is one of attributes of an expeditionary organization, the ability to conduct operations in any environment.
“We are ‘expeditionary.’ It’s the ‘E’ in ‘ESC,’ and that means we are flexible and can adapt anywhere we go, whether that’s in a foreign country or right here at home,” said Lopes. “Sure, I would prefer to work face to face, but this is the reality of our environment, and we make it work.”
The mission is just getting started for these Soldiers, but everyone is confident it will be a success. This is exactly what the Soldiers of the 4th ESC have been preparing for, they were ready when the nation called.
"It's really incredible to see the team come together,” said Henderson. “This is a stressful time for everyone, including our Soldiers and their Families, but I see everyone working on their piece of the mission, I see how resilient they are and how much they care about getting this done right, and it really inspires me. It's times like this that remind me why I put on the uniform."
The 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is headquartered in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The command is made up of Soldiers, Civilians and their Families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America's Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 and the military’s response, visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/. For U.S. Army Reserve guidance and more COVID-19 information, visit http://www.usar.army.mil/COVID19/.