This was the first time the group met virtually. LANDCOM's command team of U.S. Army Lieutenant General J.T. Thomson, LANDCOM Commander, and Canadian Army Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Mathers, Command Senior Enlisted Leader, joined the meeting to discuss force health protection measures the command had implemented to safeguard against COVID-19.
"We are glad to engage with the spouses and the families on a regular basis as we go through this very extraordinary time of uncertainty," said U.S Army Lieutenant General J.T. Thomson. "We're blessed to be in Turkey, I can tell you that," he said. "Our host nation is taking this very seriously, has given us a lot of resources, is doing things proactively. I'm very comfortable here in the headquarters with the measures we have taken in compliance with host nation requirements."
Colonel Demriel Hakkan gives an update on Turkish Ministry of Health regulations and and measures to safeguard the population.
Lieutenant General Thomson had a handful of key staff members in his large office with him to contribute during the video teleconference, all appropriately physically distanced in accordance with the guidance of health authorities. One of these staff members, Turkish Army Colonel Hakan Demirel, gave an update on Turkey's measures at the government level to mitigate the virus spread.
"We are a family, not only LANDCOM personnel, but you as well," said Colonel Hakkan. That's why we are providing you as much information as possible to ensure you are protected as well, he said, citing the fact his team had worked hard to convey Turkey's efforts to mitigate the virus threat since January.
Within the headquarters, these measures include temperature screenings of all personnel entering the base complex, authorized telework to drastically reduce manning within the headquarters at any given time, and periodic disinfection of buildings using specialized host nation teams. Additionally, LANDCOM has implemented the use of video link virtual meeting technology for regularly scheduled meetings within the headquarters itself to minimize reliance on collective meeting rooms.
Colonel Hakkan also highlighted Turkish Government services designed to help those in need at any time.
"Anytime you have any questions or need help, I am always available. Or [dial the Turkish Ministry of Health Hotline], 184, is always available and you can call this an alternative to get support or get help," he said, clarifying that the hotline offers multiple languages for callers.
Colonel Hakkan went on to outline the latest restrictions directly effecting Izmir before the command's Doctor, German Army Lieutenant Colonel Christian Vogl, provided attendees a medical situation update.
"I can tell in Izmir we have a really dense network of hospitals…and I just returned from one hospital this morning because I wanted personally to monitor the situation and I can assure you it's routine at the moment," Lieutenant Colonel Vogl said. "There is no situation where they are overwhelmed…we will have the full support of the hospitals."
He emphasized the importance of continuing personal prevention measures like consistent hand washing and physical distancing, both by personnel in the headquarters and by families at home.
"The measures we implemented, of course it's limiting our personal lives, but it reduces the risk to transmit disease tremendously," Lieutenant Colonel vogl said.
"Just in case, when somebody gets sick, I have no idea about the procedures, which is the best hospital in Izmir, where did I go?" asked one family member new to the command.
Lieutenant Colonel Christian explained that the family members National Support Element representatives would connect them to appropriate network of local hospitals for care. They can also dial 184 for assistance in the event of emergencies.
Chrissy Wruck, Spouses Club president and wife of LANDCOM Command Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Mathers, opened the floor to additional discussion and the sharing of ideas among the group of how to spend their time considering the circumstances.
"Seems a little different when your sitting at home and not being able to do a lot … but let us know what you are doing" as a way make the best of the time," she said. This compelled a flood of ideas from various family members, ranging from the lists of online activities provided by the NATO Izmir Club, SHAPE's online resources, and online gym classes by famous fitness personalities.
The group agreed to meet virtually again in May for another update.
"I will tell you that our number one job and mission at LANDCOM right now is health of the force, our soldiers, our civilians, and our family members," and we need to be ready if the mission requires, said Lieutenant General Thomson. "We will get through this, I don't know when… but us working together as a team, and everybody doing our part to kill the virus and protect ourselves is how we'll do that."
Referring to efforts to continue these important family meetings virtually, Command Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Mathers said "As a team, we do this for each other… I'm so proud of the creativity and energy [this group] has to keep ourselves in touch.
For the latest information on LANDCOM's approach to mitigating the virus threat, including what to do in suspected case and up to date information on current restrictions here in Turkey, visit: https://lc.nato.int/covid19