Army COVID-19 Response Operations Cell provides valuable support to Va. Guard Soldiers

Maj. Kevin Hoffman (center), former officer in charge of the Army COVID-19 Response Operations Cell, briefs Col. Scott Smith (left), Virginia Army National Guard chief of staff, on ACROC operations May 20, 2020 at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The ACROC provides a central point for Virginia Army National Guard personnel, logistics and operations support to the Virginia National Guard COVID-19 response mission. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — In April 2020, as more and more Virginia National Guard Soldiers were activated as part of the state’s COVID-19 response mission, the Virginia Army National Guard established the Army COVID-19 Response Operations Cell to oversee and streamline the process.

More than three months later, the ACROC continues its mission and has proved a valuable and vital cog in the VNG’s COVID-19 response.

“I like to think of our team as the central point for Soldier support,” said Capt. Alexandra G. Oberoi, ACROC logistics planner. “It takes a lot to make a mission like this happen, and the people are what makes the Virginia Army National Guard so great. I take a lot of pride in working to support our Guardsmen and find ways to make things easier for our units.”

The ACROC has three primary missions. The first is to conduct Reception, Staging, Onward-movement, and Integration and reverse RSOI for Soldiers put on Title 32 orders in support of the COVID-19 response.

“Regarding RSOI, we’re talking about publishing orders for Soldiers, which involves G1 approval, medical team approval, G3 approval – many checks of data points to ensure we’re putting the correct Soldiers on orders to meet the mission requirements,” said Maj. Kresimir Waite, officer in charge of the ACROC.

A process that often requires a readiness NCO a full day to prepare the packet for one Soldier was stream-lined so that within a week more than 400 Soldiers were brought on duty. 

“Master Sgt. Greg Gilman and team worked basically non-stop the first two weeks scrubbing the list and making sure that everything was in order for each Soldier, many checks and double-checks to not allow anyone to fall through the cracks and to have all of the orders published in time to begin mission requests on time,” Waite said.

ACROC is also responsible for reverse RSOI, properly taking Soldiers off duty and returning them to their civilian capacity. It’s just as important as the RSOI process because proper documentation means pay and benefits are handled correctly and Soldiers get a proper record of their service.

Items tackled by the reverse RSOI team included resolving any pay issues, accurate Defense Travel System vouchers, correct orders with all amendments and accurate dates of service, settlement of leave usage, and a Post Deployment Health Assessment. The PDHA included an interview with a medical provider to ensure that after having worked in a hostile COVID-19 environment, the Soldiers returning to their homes and families were healthy and non-contagious.

To date, the ACROC has conducted reverse RSOI for around 150 Soldiers, according to Waite. Even after all Virginia Guard Soldiers are off Title 32 FEMA orders, one member of the ACROC, Capt. Tony Hale, will continue to work with the Directorate of Personnel to ensure awards and DD 214s are produced for everyone.

“Soldiers deserve to have all of the documentation in place for the so that the record of their service is accurate and complete, and that the pay and benefits were handled correctly for their service,” Waite said.

On two different occasions the FEMA mission assignment was extended by the federal government which meant that each individual order needed to be amended to extend to a later date, Waite explained. In addition, addition personnel actions needed to be completed to ensure that there were no breaks in pay for the Soldiers and their health care coverage continued. 

“While it was the responsibility of each Soldier’s unit to initiate these actions, the ACROC also actioned each one,” Waite said. “More than 400 on both occasions. Master Sgt. Gilman created a data portal on VKO in order to track the status of these actions for each Soldier. The portal currently has over 22,000 data points and has been key to tracking all of the Soldiers.”

The second mission of ACROC is to facilitate the process for VAARNG COVID-19 task forces to receive logistical support needed.

“Our logistical team, Capt. Allie Oberoi, liaised with the task forces to ensure that normal Army logistical processes were followed to provide for the feeding, housing, and personal protective equipment issuance for the Soldiers on Title 32 FEMA orders,” Waite explained.

The third ACROC mission is to assist in planning for future operations in a COVID-19 environment.

The ACROC provided support to the VAARNG Directorate of Operations when it was time to look ahead at the re-opening of the organization and conducted analysis and planning to provide guidance to the major subordinate commands on how units would phase back into ‘normal’ training again. 

This information included timelines and guidance on the appropriate protective measures to have in place for the full-time staff to return from remote work, for units to conduct drill weekends, and how to plan for and conduct annual training.

The ACROC stood up April 7, 2020, with Maj. Kevin Hoffman as the officer in charge and Master Sgt. Greg Gilman as the non-commissioned-officer-in-charge. Maj. Heath Phillips joined the team soon after. 

Oberoi came aboard as the logistics planner for the ACROC on April 10, 2020, and by April 20, 2020, the ACROC team had been built out to include two battle captains, Capt. Donald Davis and Capt. Brad Gregory; two battle NCOs, Staff Sgt. Ike Eisenhart and Sgt. 1st Class Lance Russell; a medical plans officer, Maj. Kristianne Sinclair; a personnel team, Hale and Sgt. Zach Smith; a medical provider, Capt. Michael Hickey; and a safety officer, CW5 William Lyles. 

Waite, who began as a second planning officer, became the OIC, while Master Sgt. Scott Gibson was brought on as the NCOIC, when Hoffman and Gilman departed to manage the Virginia Army National Guard civil disturbance response.