Future Ops maintains counter COVID-19 momentum

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft

Future Ops maintains counter COVID-19 momentum

by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- As Team Kadena leaders consider how to implement and update force health protection measures, the Future Operations team, or FUOPS, works behind the scenes to arm decision makers with situational awareness and knowledge to make the most informed decisions.

The FUOPS mission enhances leaders’ abilities to protect families while maintaining mission readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When you look at some of the force health protections and postures we are in, that is the result of our FUOPS team bringing together subject matter experts and recommending solutions to identified problems,” said Maj. Richard McCann, one of two FUOPS Division Chiefs, from the 33rd Rescue Squadron. “The team puts together the series of options that help leaders understand all the benefits of each measure, but also at what cost."

FUOPS consists of subject matter experts from across the base who bring knowledge in medical, logistics, civil engineering, operations, and maintenance fields.

“We consider every possible situation, identify problems and then plan to mitigate those issues, so by the time we get to the problem we have a way of addressing it,” McCann said. “We can go to the wing commander and say ‘we know this is coming,’ staying proactive instead of just reacting to issues as they come up."

Protecting the health of his people and maintaining mission readiness are the biggest priorities for the wing commander.

"In order to maintain mission readiness, we first need to protect the lives of our people. If the force is not preserved, our abilities to maintain mission readiness are inherently reduced,” said Maj. Travis Church, the other Future Division Chiefs, from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron. “The FUOPS team, in conjunction with all units across Kadena Air Base, have taken deep looks into how we can reduce our interactions, such as maximizing procedures for social distancing and sanitization while maintaining our mission proficiencies."

In addition to focusing on the safety of Team Kadena, FUOPS also engages with the Okinawa-wide Joint COVID-19 Response Cell as part of the planning process, which allows for data sharing throughout the different commands on island.

"To determine what problems we may face in the future, we look at what other bases are doing, their environment, and their posture,” McCann said. “We also consider the actions Kadena is taking today and try to project the second- and third-order effects of those actions in order to develop preemptive solutions."

Some of the issues FUOPS works through include determining potential health protection condition measure implementation and retraction, as well as balancing inbound and outbound permanent change of station (PCS) movement. Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and complexity of implementing protection measures that impact thousands of people assigned to Kadena AB, the FUOPS team must overcome challenges that require them to reassess the situation at a moment.

"The challenge is keeping pace,” said McCann said. “While the team is working feverishly on recommendations, such as figuring out PCS issues, new guidance may be released in the middle of all the research and hard work that changes everything. Sometimes this happens right after a recommendation has already been made and then the team just has to reassess and adjust."

Members of the FUOPS team understand COVID-19 is a threat, and are dedicated to protecting Team Kadena and its mission. According to FUOPS team leads, members are closely monitoring and researching responses, reactions, preventive actions and recovery steps being taken by other installations in areas such as South Korea, Italy, Texas, and local communities on Okinawa. They continuously monitor and analyze any data that can be used to help develop recommendations for Team Kadena.

"After nearly two months in this fight, the number of cases both on and off installations across Okinawa are significantly lower with a flatter curve than locations the team has researched,” Church said. “This is a testament to the combined diligence of not just the team’s recommendations, but of Kadena Air Base personnel taking seriously the directions provided by base leaders. Church added, “FUOPS is still in the fight, constantly reassessing the COVID threat and continuing to plan for all possible scenarios for the months ahead.”

Photo Caption:
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew Sanders, Future Operations team member from the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, coordinates COVID-19 data with U.S. Forces Japan teams at an emergency operations center May 13, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Sanders works with members from other squadrons and together they make up a diverse group of subject matter experts who develop counter-COVID-19 solutions for a variety of potential issues that could impact Team Kadena during the pandemic.

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