‘Abe’ Abrams, RES ‘03
As the United Nations Command, the Combined Forces Command, and United States Forces Korea (UNC/CFC/USFK) Commander, I’ve been in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis since the end of January. As you are aware, once it left China and began to spread to other countries, the Republic of Korea was the next big breakout.
Our response and containment efforts have been documented now by many news agencies. In short, we immediately (since January 27th and long before our first positive case) operationalized our approach—enhanced watch, developed a contact trace fusion cell, developed predictive analytic tools to drive Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level decisions, and approached everything with speed and violence of action. Our positive case battle drill is a multi-disciplined drill that harnesses medical/garrison/law enforcement/trace fusion simultaneously in time and space so we can quickly contain the possible spread.
We conduct a daily battle rhythm (7 days a week since 27 Jan) which includes a daily CDR update brief like you would see in any operational theater. This is our main effort. Our #1 priority is to protect the force which includes all USFK affiliated persons. We balance this every day with our need to maintain a strong combined defense posture with our ROK allies and deliver a fight tonight capability.
Some keys to success: This is an operation. Centralized planning and decentralized execution are the order of the day. This is a mission command environment driven by my mantra to all commanders at every level: you have freedom of action to take any action you feel necessary to protect the force and I’ll provide all top cover (and underwrite the risk).
Secondly, from day 1, we have been transparent and open with our community. We use all forms of media and put special emphasis on social media to get the message out. Garrison commanders conduct daily or every other day live town hall meetings using Facebook and the turnout is off the charts. We also use our Alerts systems to provide immediate notification of any positive cases and designation of “hot spots.” As a result, we enjoy a high level of confidence with the entire community that we are doing all we can to protect them.
Lastly, we have taken a previous good working relationship with the Korean CDC, and made it into a true transparent and incredibly supportive bilateral relationship. We enjoy fantastic relations with KCDC and they have bent over backwards to support us.
We’re not perfect, but as of April 7th, we’ve had two service members test positive and 18 others are DOD civilians, KN employees or DoD contractors. None have required acute care.
Our service members, family members, and all USFK personnel have shown amazing resilience and determination to KILL the virus. I could not be more proud.
GEN Robert B. ‘Abe’ Abrams
Resident Class of 2003, Seminar 20
Commander, United Nations Command, the Combined Forces Command, and of United States Forces Korea (UNC/CFC/USFK)