KUWAIT 11.19.2020 –
The fine talcum-like dust, familiar to those who have been to the Middle East, had barely settled by the 36th Infantry Division Soldier’s arrival when a loud knock was heard throughout the transient soldier barracks. I knew what was coming. “Pack a bag, enough for three to five days,” said the voice, “mandatory quarantine.”
Before we could move into our new deployment “home away from home,” we would each go through the required two-week COVID-19 quarantine to isolate us from the camp’s population as an additional safety measure.
I think saying COVID-19 has changed all of our lives is a huge understatement, but having to participate in such strict COVID-19 mitigations, put in place by the Department of Defense, just seemed to solidify that very fact to each of us. No one is immune and every person needs to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Everyone packed for the next few minutes, trying to get their minds set. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us has trained within the CDC guidelines and quarantine is a part of it. I find myself thinking, there just has to be a silver lining to all of this.
Every time I deploy, no matter the mission, I feel a sense of pride knowing that I am supporting something greater than myself. Our mission was two-fold now, supporting our U.S. partnerships in Southwest Asia through Task Force Spartan and defeating the spread of COVID-19.
Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in U.S. Central Command’s area of operations to strengthen our defense relationships and build partner capacity through Operation Spartan Shield.
Supporting our partnerships means preventing the spread of COVID-19 to our host nation’s military or civilian populations.
In moments like this, a Soldier’s ability to switch gears and adapt to their changing environment is essential. Pulling together as a team and overcoming the mutual frustrations of isolation increases our resiliency and is the reason why military bonds forged from moments like this last a lifetime.
We formed up outside the ISOFAC, Isolation Facility, where the lead sergeant handled the crowd expertly. Sgt. Farnoosh Sheini, 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) from Los Angeles, California, knew this was a critical moment to create trust with the travel-weary Soldiers that stood before her.
“For me the mental health of the soldiers is really important,” said Sheini, showing a passion for Soldier care. “I know that [mental health] plays such an important role for the immune system, positivity helps boost it. I care about the first human needs part of it; are they good, do they have everything they need like personal hygiene and bedding, are they getting settled the proper way?”
She would not be distracted from her mission, the Soldiers before her were now people under her care and she showed each small group to their temporary home.
General Purpose Medium Army tents surrounded by sun-faded sandbags with plywood floors and steel framed bunk beds became our home and our fellow Soldiers became our ‘tent family.’ Bonds started to form and as a group we made the best of it.
We stayed to our segregated ‘tent families’ for the most part, but Arrowhead Soldiers seemed to find ways to make the bleakest situations endurable. I have always said, “Comradery is brought about by mutual struggle.”
It seems that every daunting task or mission becomes a source for Soldiers to bond. It wasn’t long before Soldiers put on their let’s-make-the-best-of-it face and started finding the oftentimes-obscure silver linings.
Sgt. 1st Class Scotty Scruggs, Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 36th Infantry Division’s Equal Opportunity Advisor, managed to stay positive and believes the silver lining is in adaptability.
“Typically, I am used to actual weights when I work out,” said Scruggs. “Now I am using bricks, or I am using steel pipes. I even use sandbags and buckets of rocks to keep not only physically fit but, also, mentally fit as well.”
The difference is attitude. Scruggs believes that even a bad situation can be made better by having the right attitude.
Scruggs boasted, “I am resilient because I am always hunting for the good stuff.”