Unsung LSA operation at Fort Lee remains key to COVID-19 response

Contract employee Tabitha Gore wraps a meal in cellophane at the Fort Lee Logistics Support Area dining facility Jan. 13. Its patrons have the option of choosing takeout meals or eating in the 120-person capacity dining area.

FORT LEE, Va. – When the initial spread of COVID 19 prompted personal protection and shelter-at-home measures last spring, it also compelled the Army to implement stop-movement orders to mitigate transmission rates. That decision greatly impacted the training pipeline for organizations like the Combined Arms Support Command that sees upward of 5,000 military and civilian personnel occupying its classrooms on any given day.

The leadership here was faced with the daunting prospect of retaining a backlog of troops who had completed their training but were prevented from proceeding to their next assignments. The solution was to make available more space here via the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, said Michael A. Spragley, CASCOM deputy chief of staff, G-4.

“In anticipation of the stop-move order, the (CASCOM) commanding general (Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg) quickly recognized it was necessary to create the ability to sustain troops here due to COVID-19,” he said.

LOGCAP– administered by the Army Sustainment Command – provides contingency support for military operations by laying the groundwork needed to establish living, dining and other accommodations. ASC, an element of Army Materiel Command, moved quickly to help the installation meet its requirements.

“ASC, CASCOM, garrison and LRC-Lee leadership conducted an assessment based on the space of the installation,” Spragley said. “It identified areas where they could possibly build facilities, such as tent cities, or take advantage of existing structures such as barracks.”

Logistics Readiness Center-Lee played a vital role in the undertaking. It’s director, Carlos Gainer, said ASC’s template-based options made the process simple.

“Our biggest challenge was finding a site,” he said, “and deciding whether we were going to build from scratch – tents to house troops – or use existing buildings and expand upon that. Our course of action was choosing the existing buildings.”

The assessment was completed in late March, and a Logistics Support Area – located near the corner of A and Mahone avenues at the old 49th Quartermaster Group site – sprang up shortly thereafter. It began operations April 3.  It made use of existing unoccupied barracks but added a tented, 6,000-square-foot, contractor-run dining facility along with extra latrines, shower and laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi capability. The LSA was designed to accommodate 500 troops.

In the first weeks of operation, the site served as a temporary home for advanced individual training holdovers. Then the Army established the means to safely transport IET troops, and the LSA became a hub in the effort, providing shorter-term accommodations for individuals pending departure.

By August, the barracks were no longer used, but the dining facility has remained in operation and, according to Spragley, is currently serving roughly 160 meals per feeding session to Army Logistics University students who are under restriction of movement status. In all, the facility has served more than 59,000 meals since its opening.

Originally planned as a 90-day operation, Spragley said the LSA remains a resource. Its continued existence is “dependent on what the pandemic does.”

Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 has gotten worse over the past several weeks, but the Army has remained steadfast with its prevention protocols and has fine-tuned operations to better deal with training and transporting military members safely. It is continuing to employ a strategy designed to safely move troops between installations, but the number of them coming through the installation has been drastically reduced.

In retrospect, Spragley said, the success of the LSA can be attributed to teamwork.

“I applaud the commanding general and his command team,” he further acknowledged. “They have done a tremendous job with messaging and communicating mission goals and making decisions far in advance.”

Spragley also thanked the CASCOM G-3; LRC-Lee, MICC-Lee and the Army Garrison for their support of the project. The LSA is a success story that deserves its moment in the limelight.

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