Feature   Defense News

Liberty Battalion Supports Readiness, Fights COVID-19

June 3, 2020 | BY ARMY MAJ. JON ALLEN , 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, soldiers from the 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division implemented preventive measures to protect each other and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The battalion represents one of many units across Fort Riley that have had to overcome COVID-19 related challenges while maintaining their ability to answer the nation's call if necessary.

"The outbreak of COVID-19 has been an uncertain time for everyone," Army Lt. Col. Angel Cardenas, the battalion's commander, said. "At Liberty Battalion, we have continued to carry out our unique and expansive mission of supporting the Devil Brigade while ensuring that our soldiers and their families stay safe by protecting the force, preventing the spread and preserving mission readiness."

Soldiers working while wearing personal protective equipment.
Equipment Check
A soldier from the 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division armament shop, maintains equipment at Fort Riley, Kan., while wearing personal protective equipment, May 21, 2020. Liberty Battalion soldiers have implemented procedures to protect the force while maintaining mission essential readiness during the pandemic.
Photo By: Army Spc. Brandon Bruer
VIRIN: 200521-A-ME995-619M

The Liberty Battalion mission includes a wide variety of support activities, including supply distribution, maintenance, medical care and food service. Fort Riley categorizes these as required readiness activities necessary to meet national security commitments to the federal government and the U.S. military.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nelson Dawson, a supply systems technician for Liberty Battalion, is the accountable officer for the brigade's supply support activity operations.

"We've been able to split 12-hour days to accommodate physical distancing and still get after the mission to put parts into the hands of the maintainer," Dawson said. "Everything that comes through here is going to make it into the hands of an operator and determine if a tank goes boom or a warfighter is able to execute his or her mission."

Protecting the force is literally why we're here ... If that means having people limiting contact, distancing, wearing masks, limiting work duties to essential tasks, I think that's incredibly vital."
Army Capt. (Dr.) Ryan Vonderhorst, battalion surgeon

In addition to implementing procedures to maintain readiness of the unit, Dawson is taking extra precaution to care for soldiers working in a potentially stressful environment.

"[I'm] keeping an eye out and making sure soldiers are healthy, engaging with the soldiers, more than usual, and making sure they're prepared to complete their tasks," Dawson said.

Army Spc. Madison Dunn, a small arms and artillery repairer with the Liberty Battalion armament shop, noted the importance of personal protective equipment in his daily duties.

Soldiers working while wearing personal protective equipment.
Protective Equipment
Army Spc. Madison Dunn, small arms and artillery repairer with the 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, armament shop, maintains equipment while wearing personal protective equipment to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 at Fort Riley, Kan., May 21, 2020. Liberty Battalion soldiers have implemented procedures to protect the force while maintaining mission essential readiness during the pandemic.
Photo By: Army Spc. Brandon Bruer
VIRIN: 200521-A-ME995-389M

"We implemented face masks. It's just another piece of PPE that we're used to wearing," Dunn said. "We do what we have to do, it's just another day in the Army."

The key to protecting the force is medical care. Army Capt. (Dr.) Ryan Vonderhorst, a battalion surgeon with the Liberty Battalion, described changes made to health care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Protecting the force is literally why we're here," Vonderhorst said. "If that means having people limiting contact, distancing, wearing masks, limiting work duties to essential tasks, I think that's incredibly vital."

The Liberty Battalion is also responsible for dining facility operations for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. Army Cpl. Jushauna Bayley, a culinary specialist with the Liberty Battalion, has managed the challenges from COVID-19 while feeding the soldiers of the Devil Brigade.

Soldiers working while wearing personal protective equipment.
Food Services
Army Cpl. Jushauna Bayley, a culinary specialist with the 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, assists with food service operations at Fort Riley, Kan., while wearing personal protective equipment. Liberty Battalion soldiers have implemented procedures to protect the force while maintaining mission essential readiness during the pandemic.
Photo By: Army Spc. Brandon Bruer
VIRIN: 200521-A-ME995-503M

"To ensure we complete the mission, we enforce standards and make sure soldiers in the kitchen and dining are not complacent," Bayley said. "We now keep 6 feet of distance, all soldiers wear masks, have their temperatures checked and follow sanitization procedures."

The Liberty Battalion and Devil Brigade continue to take action to protect the force, prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 and remain ready to deploy, fight and win America's wars.