Dobbins Air Reserve Base Deployment, 2020
By CDR Wei Guo
Deputy Section Chief, A/F
Food and Drug Administration
What is your current assignment in USPHS?
Program Management Officer, in FDA/Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. My assignment is focused on Technology Transfer and data science.
What was the mission of this deployment?
Setting up Incident Management Team (IMT) site at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia. My deployment was from March 9 to March 23, 2020. This site hosted about 400 passengers from The Grand Princess cruise ship in California. Some of them tested positive during the quarantine and transferred to medical facilities, others were released after two weeks of stay.
What was your role during this deployment?
I participated and worked with others to set up the local IMT command Center on the Base. I am the Deputy Section Chief of Admin/Finance, my many years of training in PHS and emergency response paid off. It also put my response management skills, communication skills, and expertise of working on data and information to the test.
Was this your first deployment? Either way, how did you prepare for the deployment, personally or work-wise?
No, I have been deployed many times, as Admin/Finance officer and in many other roles. Keep up with the PHS and FEMA trainings to prepare for the deployment, but the best trainings I got were always during the deployment.
Do you have any advice or “pearls of wisdom” for fellow officers who are being deployed or are interested in deploying?
Most deployments tend to be stressful, so keep calm and cool, be observant, make a daily to-do list, prepare to meet the challenge, and be confident.
What was the most important thing you learned during this deployment?
You can't be perfectly prepared for a deployment, and they are rarely planned without faults or run precisely. The same is true for this one. Be adaptable, flexible, resourceful, and make do of what you have and can. We faced many obstacles during the IMT set up and operation, such as no internet service, lack of printing capability, etc, but we managed and did a successful job to complete the mission.
What were some of the key challenges that you experienced?
Protecting others while protecting yourself, and keeping the fear at bay while still aware of the danger of becoming infected.
What did you enjoy the most (e.g., favorite memory) about this deployment?
I enjoyed the quick buddy-forming and friendship we shared during the two-week deployment. We had good time both on and off-duty. We shared life experiences, care for each other, and are looking forward to the next time together.
What would you consider your major accomplishment stemming from this deployment?
Responded to the call at the earliest time, contributed to the mission to host the possible COVID-19 patients in the quarantine facility, showing to the public that we are the reliable and courageous force during public health emergencies.
Were there any classes or trainings that helped you in your deployment?
You can learn all the lessons in classroom or on-line, the most important lessons will come from what you learned in the field.
How was your post deployment/reintegration experience? Was it a smooth transition back to your daily activities?
Self-quarantined for two weeks. Slept 18 hours straight. Felt the warmth when Corps Care unit called.
Please feel free to share anything else regarding your deployment to highlight your experiences or to increase the readiness of fellow officers.
Remember that your colleagues at your duty station have to make adjustments in their lives in your absence. A little gratitude goes a long way. This can be in the form of an e-mail, a conversation, a card, a challenge coin, etc.