Fort Hood garrison senior leaders responded to questions focused on the workforce at the Great Place during a Facebook Live Garrison Town Hall event April 2.
Col. Jason Wesbrock, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, and Keith Gogas, deputy to the garrison commander, fielded questions submitted before the event, followed by questions asked during the livestream.
“For the several thousand garrison employees, either at work or home, this is an attempt to reach out, hear your concerns, and answer your questions,” Wesbrock said in his opening comments.
The garrison leaders encouraged the workforce to remain diligent during this unprecedented time, while following guidelines set forth by the installation, community, county and state with regards to social distancing and hand washing.
Despite the COVID-19 threat, Wesbrock reminded people that missions are continuing as Soldiers deploy, redeploy and train for deployment.
“Unlike an inclement weather (threat), where we would have most people and Soldiers stay home, this threat is different,” Wesbrock said.
Instead, Fort Hood executed protective measures to limit the chance of exposure for their workforce. The installation has encouraged social distancing, telework, reduced in-person meetings and kept groups to a minimum. Wesbrock and Gogas encouraged people to remain flexible as protective measures will continue to evolve as things change.
“We are facing an unprecedented challenge as we balance the health of our workforce with the need to ensure success of our missions in the ongoing threat of COVID-19,” Wesbrock explained. “I need our workforce to remain disciplined to enforce these passive measures. I need you to protect yourself, so we can protect the force, so the force can protect the nation.”
The two senior leaders answered several questions regarding telework and mission-essential designation, which is determined by supervisors. As Wesbrock and Gogas pointed out, a lot of essential tasks cannot be done from home, even tasks performed by contractors. As an example, the garrison commander said that there are several contractors who work in the ID Card office, which cannot close down. Instead, the office is only seeing clients by appointment only, to limit the number of people in the office at one time.
For married couples with children who are both classified as mission-essential, childcare is possible through Child and Youth Services. Wesbrock said the application for childcare must be approved by a colonel or GS-15 before being reviewed and approved by CYS. He also said units have been encouraged to provide flexible schedules for their troops during this time.
Gogas said communication is important during this time and he encouraged supervisors to over-communicate information with their teammates so they are well-informed.
“I’m challenging first-line supervisors to call and check on your teammates every single day to make sure they know what’s going on,” he added.
After questions regarding the “Shelter in Place” order arose, Wesbrock clarified that “Shelter in Place” does not mean a person cannot leave his or her home. Fresh air and exercise are both vitally important and he said people can still go outside and can still do physical exercise.
“If you’re going outside and you’re with your family and playing and running, that’s great,” he said. “I would encourage folks to get outside and go for walks, take your kids outside and let them get some sun.”
Wesbrock said he was meeting with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation April 2 to discuss the possibility of opening the Sportsmen’s Center for fishing and hunting licenses, since turkey season is now in effect through May 17. Since that meeting, it was announced that the Sportsmen’s Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, beginning today. Social distancing is in full effect and those signing up for permits are asked to bring their own pens. Those feeling unwell should not come. For more information from the Sportsmen’s Center, call 254-532-4552.
The garrison commander was also able to open Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area for fishing and hiking to stay active while also social distancing. BLORA is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily with free access. For more information, call BLORA at 254-287-2907.
Gogas said that while this is a stressing time, things will get better. In the meantime, he encourages everyone to take care of themselves and take care of one another.
“We can’t take care of our Soldiers and family if we’re sick, so please follow all social distancing and handwashing guidelines,” he said. “If you feel sick, stay at home and call your healthcare provider.”
In conclusion, Wesbrock thanked the garrison for all their hard work and encouraged them once again to protect themselves, echoing what he had previously told everyone.
“I need you to protect yourself, so we can protect our force, so we can enable the force to protect our nation,” Wesbrock concluded.
As changes are made, another Facebook Live Garrison Town Hall is possible in a few weeks to address any remaining concerns from the garrison workforce.