JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —
The COVID-19 pandemic, a war waged against an invisible enemy and on a microscopic scale, serves as another challenge for the U.S. Air Force to overcome.
Maintaining mission readiness across deployment zones is paramount for senior leaders. The Restriction of Movement (ROM) Program at Joint Base MDL’s Camp J21, formerly named Camp JB MDL, allows the U.S. Air Force to continue to provide mission ready forces to deployment theaters.
“We have a mission to support on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., like any other military installation, and ROM at Camp J21 allows us to continue to carry out that mission in spite of recent events,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rozela McCoy, 452nd Civil Engineering Squadron superintendent and Camp J21 Mayor.
Joint Base MDL was chosen as one of the five initial Installations to host the ROM program for the Air Force in the continental U.S. in spring 2020. Under ROM, service members spend 14 days at the All American Inn lodging facility before they are cleared to deploy.
“Near the end of their ROM, deployers are given a COVID-19 test with a rapid turnaround time that will serve as their golden ticket to forward deploy,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Sarah Torres, 87th Medical Group laboratory supervisor. “If they test positive, they are immediately pulled out of the ROM Program at J21 and placed in medical quarantine isolation so that their condition can be monitored.”
This scenario is rare according to Torres. The ROM program at Camp J21 has currently processed four groups of deployers as of November 2020.
“Our entire goal with ROM is to provide a safe corridor for our personnel, the deployers, and host nations where our service members will eventually forward deploy,” said Torres. “So far in that endeavor we have been entirely successful.”
Efficiency is key to Joint Base MDL’s ROM program, with various tools having been implemented to save man-hours and improve the quality of life for all involved.
“Once in-processed, the deployers get their own room at Camp J21 with amenities like free Wi-Fi, cable TV and access to the personal shopper program where they can purchase permitted items,” said McCoy. “They’re also included in a Q&A zoom call on their first day with U.S. Air Force Col. Janette Ketchum, 87th Mission Support Group commander, who oversees the camp.”
Ways of innovating the ROM program over the last six months have been a collaborative effort according to McCoy.
“We created an in-processing video that acquaints the deployers with base leadership and explains their stay in detail,” said McCoy. “They also get access to the Chap App, where religious needs can be met virtually by speaking one-on-one with a chaplain.”
Joint Base MDL has served as a staging area for the fight against COVID-19 from the onset of the pandemic in the tri-state area. Emergency first responders and members of the Joint Task Force-Civil Support for COVID-19 NYC operations quarantined here on their return from the frontlines.
“We are very thankful for the phenomenal service members we have assisting ROM,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Raymond Davis, 87th Logistical Readiness Squadron ground transportation NCOIC. “The professionalism and the pride they take in their work shows every day.”
While the combat readiness of service members and their ability to deploy remains the top priority of the Camp J21 ROM program, keeping them happy, healthy and comfortable during their stay is just as important.
“Some of these service members are about to deploy for the first time in very difficult circumstances because of the pandemic,” said Davis. “Providing a quality ROM experience here is vital as they are separated from family and friends during the holidays.”