BYDGOSZCZ, Poland — Soldiers are the lifeline of the U.S. Army. They ensure mission success on a daily basis.

As Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the world continue to deal with the spread of COVID-19, ensuring those within the U.S. Army are safe and healthy, is priority No.1.

“The health and safety of our force remains key to our readiness,” Maj. Kristin Fiala, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command surgeon cell officer-in-charge and COVID-19 response lead, said.

COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person, through cough or sneeze respiratory droplets. People who are actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others.

In order to keep Soldiers from contracting the virus and spreading it to each other and the local populations, Army leaders are incorporating the recommended procedures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as from other medical experts.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Wiglesworth, 13th ESC surgeon cell and noncommissioned officer-in-charge, handles medical operations while Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th ESC, is in Europe. He has been cautioning Soldiers and leaders to follow the safe practices set forth by the CDC.

“It’s critical Soldiers wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing and restrict their movements as much as possible,” Wiglesworth said.

To combat the spread of COVID-19, social distancing is defined by the CDC as, “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately six feet or two meters) from others when possible.”

While in Poland, leaders are following this guidance by limiting the number of leaders at key meetings and spreading the attendees throughout the tactical operations center, staggering how Soldiers frequent daily meals and restricting non-mission essential travel to and from high-risk areas.

Given the time of year and environment in Europe, some people may experience unrelated coughing or sneezing, and covering one’s mouth is something best practiced.

“When sneezing or coughing, use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth or use the crook of your arm,” Wiglesworth said.

While Soldiers may not always be able to wash their hands in place, Wiglesworth has been able to supply hand sanitizer throughout the area of operation, and now checks each Soldier’s temperature first thing in the morning. Temperatures nearing or at 100 degrees will self-quarantine pending a medical evaluation.

Capt. Jamie Abel, commander, HHC, 13th ESC, has been working closely with 13th ESC’s medical experts and those in the host nation, and is confident in the measures being put in place.

“Our number one priority is now virus prevention,” Abel said. “As in every formation, our people come first. Our medical team, Polish partners and I have put measures in place in to ensure we maintain the readiness of our Soldiers, equipment and mission to return home safely. We have already begun forecasting future preventive measures for life-support and movement home for the team.”

Fundamental to the U.S. Army’s readiness is the readiness of Soldiers. Physical fitness is an essential component of individual readiness, deployability and lethality. Implementing procedures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 supports those efforts.

“The goal of these preventative measures is conserving our fighting strength, protecting our vulnerable population and maintaining the viability of our healthcare system,” Fiala said.

For more information about COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.