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NEWS | May 5, 2020

Army Reserve Forward Engineer Support Team members assist USACE’s COVID-19 response projects for Navajo Nation

By Elizabeth Lockyear U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Albuquerque District

Within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Albuquerque District has the lead assisting the Navajo Nation with their COVID-19 response.

The Albuquerque District is primarily assisting in the area of constructing alternate care facilities for the Navajo Nation and Indian Health Service. An alternate care facility (ACF) is a site that’s temporarily converted for healthcare use during a public health emergency to reduce the burden on hospitals and established medical facilities.

One asset the Albuquerque District is utilizing is the Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST).

“There are FEST-A and FEST-M teams. Forward Engineer Support Team Advanced or Main. The purpose of a FEST team is to provide credentialed engineer level support and expertise to a project,” said Capt. Daniel Griest with the 368th FEST-M team.

“We have two FEST members in Chinle who are making great contributions to the ACF construction,” said Capt. Elizabeth Betterbed, construction engineer, with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. “There are another two FEST members in Shiprock.”

In Shiprock, we are “supporting the USACE resident staff as much as possible during the construction process of the Alternate Care Facility in order to have the Alternate Care Facility ready to receive and care of patients as soon as possible. We have assisted the staff by creating site security plans, use plans, stakeholder management and construction quality assurance/quality control,” said Capt. Sven Johansson, FEST team leader with the 791st FEST-A team.

“We were sent to Chinle to assist with the construction, technical advisement, and quality control of a temporary medical facility in response to COVID-19,” said Griest. “We were mobilized to provide site assessments and assist with project management in establishing temporary medical facilities.”

FEST members Johansson and Master Sgt. Greg Carrier arrived in Shiprock, New Mexico, April 19, and are working to turn the Atsa Biyaazh School into a 40-bed ACF for non-covid patients. The contract was awarded April 17, and construction started the next day. The estimated completion date is April 29.

FEST members Griest and Sgt. Craig Van Pamel arrived in Chinle, Arizona, April 20, and are nearing the completion date of turning the Chinle Community Center into a 50-bed ACF for non-covid patients. The contract was awarded April 17, with construction starting April 18. The estimated completion date is May 1.

Both ACFs have a total construction duration of 14 days. Griest said they “will be on ground until satisfactory completion of project or until re-assigned.”

All four FEST members are U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with engineering backgrounds. Johansson is from Olathe, Kansas, and has a background in mechanical engineering, and project and engineering management. “I have been involved with the 791st FEST-A team for one year,” he said.

Carrier is from Newark Valley, New York, and works for Delta Engineers & Architects as an assistant engineer. He has been with the 791st FEST-A for five years.

Griest is from Springboro, Ohio. He has previous experience with the FEST team in Iraq in 2017.

“The biggest reason why I enjoy being on a FEST team is because I get to actual use my degree and experience from my civilian job to improve the health, life and welfare of Soldiers. I get to work for USACE and get to use my engineering experience to help our nation when it is in need,” Griest said.

Van Pamel is a native of Madison Alabama. He said he’s spent most of his life working in the construction trades, primarily electrical, and has an A.A.S in electrical technology and am currently pursuing a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

“I have always been passionate about my career, not only to take pride in what I do and become a true craftsmen, but to provide the best possible life for my children,” said Van Pamel.