Story and photos by Staff Sgt. D. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs
CAMP MABRY, Texas—Army National Guard combat engineers completed the conversion of Camp Swift barracks into medical isolation support facilities on April 16, 2020, at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas.
The 840th Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company, which operates within the Texas Military Department’s Task Force 176, mobilized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance medical infrastructure in Texas.
The Soldiers, in conjunction with other engineering units, adapted existing barracks into treatment facilities for any Guardsmen who become infected while serving during the COVID-19 response.
Spc. Javier Vega, an engineer with the 840th Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company, expressed pride and sense of duty in the work his team is doing.
“If everybody does their part, it’ll stop the spread and everything will go back to normal,” Vega said.
Members of the 840th were silent in response to being asked about who is concerned about contracting COVID-19 while on duty, implying a collective confidence that they will remain safe from the contagion through the pandemic response.
Sgt. Keith Huffstuttler, a team leader with the 840th, attributed their confidence to the discipline with which they are following infection control protocols.
“We’ve been following good safety precautions and practicing social distancing, not even intermingling with other squads in the same platoon,” Huffstuttler said.
Keeping squads separate from each other promotes unit effectiveness through the pandemic because it prevents an infection from spreading from a smaller team to members of the larger unit, said Staff Sgt. Thomas McCraven, a squad leader with the 840th.
“That way, if one squad gets infected, it reduces the chance of the whole platoon getting infected,” McCraven said. “Losing one squad is not as bad as losing the whole platoon.”
Capt. Dillon Horn, commander of the 840th, commended his Soldiers’ discipline and cohesion, promising their high-quality work through the remainder of the pandemic.
“This group of Soldiers really just want to help their fellow Texans in this difficult time,” Horn said. “They will do whatever it takes to get the job done, and they’ll get it done quickly and with expertise.”
“Together, the 840th Engineer MAC Soldiers are a well-oiled machine,” Horn said.