CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
Combating the coronavirus on U.S. Army bases involves a high level of planning and skillful coordination to keep Soldiers safe.
A group of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to Area Support Group - Kuwait received the prestigious Commander's Coin of Excellence from Lt. Gen. Terry Ferrell, U.S. Army Central commanding general, November 18, 2020, on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for doing just that.
U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Bryan Brodt, an engineer with the 654th Regional Support Group out of Tacoma, Washington, assigned to the Directorate of Installation Services at ASG-KU, knew reopening the recreational facilities would be paramount in maintaining base morale during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
"They thought morale was tied to the food vendors but I knew most military members needed an outlet," said Brodt. "The gym is that healthy avenue to relieve stress when deployed, I knew for morale, they needed the gyms to open."
Brodt, an Alameda, Calif., native and son of retired Navy and Air Force parents, jumped into action.
"As soon as I got boots on the ground, they closed the gyms," said Brodt. "So I wrote a con-op my first week. My initial plan was shut down, I did more research and looked up what other gyms back home were doing to reopen."
Brodt's Center for Disease Control and Prevention compliant plan came to fruition starting at Camp Buehring, followed by Camp Arifjan. A sought after endeavor achieved five months after the initial closures.
According to U.S. Army Reserve Reserve Sgt. 1st. Class Anthony Ehret, Brodt's direct line supervisor, this plan dramatically boosted base morale, an effort landing Brodt in the lineup to receive the coin.
"It was probably 5 or 6 NCO's that had input on it but it was all based on Brodt's ideals and research," said Ehret. "He took the initiative to work through processes, put in countless hours...when it finally happened you wouldn't believe how much it impacted Soldiers morale. His tenacity and recognizing how much it meant to everyone else, that's why I recommended him."
Ehret, also from the 654th RSG and non commissioned officer with ASG-KU's Directorate of Installation Services, was another awardee.
Recognized for his exemplary leadership in planning and organizing a team to serve at the base isolation and quarantine facilities, Ehret's effort helped keep the base moving forward and all service members safe.
For Ehret, seeing his Soldier recognized was an added boost to his own morale.
"I was super proud to have him up there with me. I was surprised to have been nominated but to see Brodt perform, rise above his pay grade and then to be coined, it was a great feeling."
With over 20,000 service members, Department of the Army Civilians, and government contractors across the ASG-KU's footprint, supporting base operations and keeping base morale amidst COVID-19 was no easy feat.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Kamelody Williams, religious affairs specialist from the 113th Chaplain Detachment, 81st Readiness Division out of Fort Jackson, S.C., rose to the challenge.
The New Orleans native was an integral member of the COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force at ASG-KU, ensuring religious services were available on base during the three-month shutdown of in-person gatherings. Williams' resilient attitude during the trying times of COVID enabled virtual services to stream worldwide and those under quarantine on base.
Williams' efforts ensured service members could practice their religious freedoms in a COVID-19 free environment with zero cases of the virus traced to either the chapel or the base mosque, an essential component in uplifting servicemembers.
"The morale seemed like it was down because nothing was open," said Williams. "When we opened up services, I think it really helped a lot. My goal was always to help Soldiers and I've been doing my best to make sure the services did not shut down on them."
Williams was first to receive the honored coin from Lt. Gen. Ferrell, but for her, the greatest award was being able to help in those difficult times.
"I was honored, I'm usually not one to expect any reward because at the end of the day I was just doing my job," said Williams. "I was doing what I would do on any given day to help Soldiers. That is really what it came down to. Knowing I helped Soldiers, that meant a lot."
Despite the challenges presented at the onset of COVID-19, these exemplary Soldiers strived to maintain base morale to keep the mission of "taking care of people," on track.
In the ceremony's closing comments, Ferrell thanked the awardees for their efforts and reminded those in attendance of the importance of continuing their fight as a team.
"As Soldiers, we have to be vigilant in combating COVID-19 and taking care of each other," said Ferrell. "Our mission continues to move forward; together we will get through this."