The 9th Mission Support Command, headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii, has mobilized close to 400 personnel since March, throughout the Pacific, to provide assistance to Defense Support to Civil Authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 9th MSC is the most geographically dispersed command in America’s Army Reserve and provides U.S. Indo Pacific Command with capable forces at key points. The command crosses seven time zones, two U.S. states, two U.S. territories, a commonwealth and two foreign countries.
“As a U.S. Army Reserve geographic command designated as a principal Ready Force unit, and based on our wide array of forces across the Indo-Pacific Theater, the 9th MSC prepares for such contingencies year-round,” said Col. Joseph (Larry) Thomas Jr., 9th MSC G3/5/7 Deputy Chief of Staff. “The 9th MSC was more than ready to answer the call, mobilize, and in some cases forward-deploy forces in order to execute and command and control validated FEMA mission assignments and other Theater Joint Force Land Component Command requirements in support of COVID-19 response efforts.”
The 9th MSC proved their training effective as they seamlessly transitioned from steady state operations to DSCA efforts. The 9th MSC activated its Crisis Action Team and immediately began working with the TJFLCC staff to match capabilities against emerging requirements.
“The CAT was immediately stood up through an initial team huddle of all personal staff and special staff,” said 1st Lt. Lauren Brown, with the COVID-19 Fragmentary Order Team. The COVID-19 FRAGO Team ensured “the information pertaining to [9th MSC] from Army Headquarters, USARPAC and U.S. Army Hawaii was documented."
The command quickly organized personnel and supplies to match the need of the mission, people and location, eventually resulting with a total of 376 total personnel completing seven FEMA Mission Assignments and TJFLCC and USARHAW taskers.
“Mobilization of 9th MSC forces started with multiple tactical-level units to provide Joint Reception Staging and Onward Movement for other joint and interagency partners, and to operate federal staging areas in American Samoa, Guam, and Saipan,” said Thomas. “ We then mobilized a team of planners to augment Task Force West in Guam, a team of nurses to provide medical augmentation in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and additional staff personnel from 9th MSC Headquarters and its subordinate Theater Support Group, to round-out those operational-level staffs and keep pace with planning, reporting, and command and control requirements.”
In addition to mobilizing nurses, medical planners and staff personnel, Soldiers with the 9th MSC supporting JRSOI moved 273 personnel, 4 pallets, 16 boxes, 8 bags of medical equipment and cargo and over 11,500 units of Personal Protective Equipment into Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. The Command exercised Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.
The 9th MSC also provided personnel to support increased Force Protection/Health Protection Condition measures on installations across USARHAW area of operations, provided COVID Cleaning Teams and Contact Tracing Teams.
“With COVID-19 being a condition that is new, it did present the challenge of lack of knowledge on how to keep everyone safe while maintaining a work flow,” said Brown. “At times it has almost been like building a ship while it is flying.”
Throughout this pandemic, the 9th MSC adapted to these conditions.
“However, in the end, the 9th MSC enterprise rose to the challenge and completed all requirements while executing in a COVID-19 environment with social distancing, virtual collaboration, and facing other unforeseen circumstances and challenges,” said Thomas.