Skip to main content

Military Health System

Army CID forensics team on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic

Image of Three lab technicians in full PPE looking at computer screen. Dr. Roman Aranda, Supervisory Chemist, and Dr. Bo Liu, Chemist, process samples on the Panther Fusion at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia. (Photo by: Jeffrey Castro.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

In the middle of March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, the Army made mission adjustments to focus on protecting the force, posturing for global operational readiness, and supporting the national effort to fight the new novel coronavirus.

"U.S. Army researchers were critical during the SARS epidemic, the Zika virus and the Ebola outbreak as they helped develop antivirals and vaccines," said Ryan McCarthy, Secretary of the Army, in an April 1, U.S. Army press release. "They've done it before and they will do it again."

During this timeframe, a team from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Defense Forensic Science Center’s (DFSC) Forensic Exploitation Directorate (FXD) collectively identified the required skills, training and equipment needed to conduct COVID-19 testing.

“At the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we (DFSC FXD) understood the severity and global impact the virus would have,” said Crystal Allen, chief, Forensic Exploitation Branch 2 within the FXD. “We knew very quickly that given the organic skillset of the FXD examiners that we could assist the medical community with testing. Our support ultimately provided the Department of Defense with additional resources across the globe to support the ever-increasing demand for COVID-19 testing.”

Located on the Gillem Enclave in Forest Park, Georgia, the DFSC's mission is to provide full-service forensic and biometric support to Army and Department of Defense (DOD) entities worldwide. This includes the subordinate units of U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, FXD, Biometrics Operations Directorate, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training. The FXD houses the capability to deploy a scalable and modular forensic exploitation team to provide the joint force commander or combatant command with a deployable forensic capability.

Five months later, a team from FXD continues to support COVID-19 testing in support of military forces.

According to Allen, the initial planning team of seven individuals formed in mid-March and was tasked early on with concept development.

The team used their vast scientific and operational expertise to learn proper medical testing procedures and requirements in order to establish a way ahead to support the DOD.

Despite not having used the Panther Fusion, BioFire, or Gene Expert platforms before, the FXD examiners used their knowledge and skillsets in complex scientific instrumentation and sample handling to adapt, said Allen. These platforms utilize polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, much like the FXD examiners utilize to conduct forensic DNA testing.

“FXD's support to COVID processing improved the U.S. military's readiness and provided enhanced value to the U.S. government,” said Allen. “The FXD's support helped to identify service members testing positive within basic training formations, deploying units, mobilized National Guard units, Navy ships, and Marine Expeditionary Forces so commanders could isolate those infected personnel in order to preserve the readiness of the remainder of the Joint Forces.”

Since March, dozens of FXD Forensic DNA examiners, latent print examiners, and explosive/drug chemists have deployed to work in military medical treatment facilities at Fort Gordon, Georgia; and Camp Humphreys, Korea in support of U.S. Army Medical Command (USAMEDCOM). They have also deployed to Camp Ripley, Minnesota, in support of a mobile medical lab set up to handle COVID-19 specimen testing in remote locations.

Allen said, CID’s FXD team transformed their current forensic instrumentation and software into a viral testing capability and also modified five mobile forensic laboratories to meet the needs of medical testing facilities for rapid deployment into austere locations.

The mobile forensic labs have aided in expedited testing and allowed military personnel to be tested without having to mail tests to another medical location.

The transformation from a forensic science capability into a medical testing capability required exhaustive research, planning, contract modifications and countless hours of coordination with the DFSC staff, CID staff, USAMEDCOM, numerous scientific vendors, the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Allen stated.

The FXD has significantly impacted the fight during the COVID-19 pandemic with noticeable results by providing more than 8,100 hours of support and processed more than 47,530 DoD COVID-19 samples as of Aug. 11. In addition to the significant number of samples the FXD team was able to process, they were also able to provide their USAMEDCOM partners with novel testing concepts and efficient processing mechanisms based on their experience working in high OPTEMPO forensic laboratories.

The team has processed samples submitted from Basic Training formations at Fort Benning, Georgia; deploying units from Fort Campbell, Kentucky; mobilized National Guard units preparing for rotations at the Combat Training Centers; forward deployed military units along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Korea; and Marine Expeditionary Forces in Okinawa, Japan, to name a few.

“Our FXD Teams continue a high level of support to USAMEDCOM with COVID-19 Testing,” said COL Jeremy Willingham, executive director, DFSC, after processing 8,000 swabs in one week alone. “In one single day the FXD team accessioned, packaged, and shipped 2,820 specimens from the USS America, USS Ronald Reagan, USS New Orleans, U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, and Camp Humphreys.”

The primary mission for FXD is global forensic exploitation support. However, the forward leaning innovative thinking led to FXD truly supporting a full range of military operations, to include the global fight against this novel threat, said Allen.

You also may be interested in...

Latasha Smith: Warrior against COVID-19

Article Around MHS
2/18/2022
Military personnel looking at a patient's cardiac rhythm

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Latasha Smith, an Airman assigned to the 86th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, was celebrated as Airlifter of the Week, Jan. 27, 2022, after leading the assault against COVID-19 for over a year.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

COVID-19 therapeutics support DOD pandemic response

Article Around MHS
2/11/2022
Military personnel getting COVID-29 doses ready

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency is helping to protect the operational force by distributing several new therapeutic options that help to lessen the symptoms of mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 and keep Soldiers, their families and beneficiaries out of the hospital.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines continues to study long-term effects of COVID-19 on Marines

Article Around MHS
2/10/2022
Medical military personnel talking to a patient

A team composed of U.S. Navy medical personnel and civilian technicians based out of the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, assembled during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 to study the short and long-term effects that the virus has on Marines. 

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Getting up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccine

Article Around MHS
2/8/2022
Military personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. Guard Coast is that we have vaccines to help prevent serious illness if you contract COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Oregon National Guard surging to support hospitals again

Article Around MHS
1/27/2022
Oregon Army National Guard touring a hospital

Hundreds of Oregon National Guard members are increasing support of hospitals throughout the state in their second hospital relief mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Readiness Capabilities

Public Health nurses offer insights on living with COVID-19 now, looking into future

Article Around MHS
1/25/2022
The Challenges of Living with COVID

One of the more challenging jobs for any public health professional is dealing with unpredictability inherent in outbreaks like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Navy Hospital Corpsman steps into the breach in the war on COVID-19

Article Around MHS
1/18/2022
Hospitalman Hector Conde standing in front of a immunization office's refrigeration

First responders and those fighting on the medical battleground have earned well-deserved recognition for their efforts.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

This is my Why

Article Around MHS
12/30/2021
Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock poses for a photo after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination

Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock stated his reason for getting the vaccine was to help his mother and son be able to have a play date again.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

So others may breathe - Navy Medicine Respiratory Therapist cares for COVID casualties

Article Around MHS
12/13/2021
Military Health personnel posing for a picture

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tessa Hazard, a respiratory therapist, recently deployed to Alabama as a member of a COVID-19 response team.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Army Public Health Center provides update on Long COVID risks

Article Around MHS
12/1/2021
COVID19 Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

JTF Coyote begins pediatric COVID-19 clinics as adult booster vaccination numbers increase

Article Around MHS
11/23/2021
Military health personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The Vermont National Guard now supports the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccinations for youth in the 5 to 11 age group and booster clinics for the general adult population.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

USECAF receives insight into COVID19 vaccinations at Reserve wing

Article Around MHS
10/8/2021
Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visits with 433rd Airlift Wing members at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 2, 2021.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visited the 433rd Airlift Wing here to meet with Reserve Citizen Airmen leaders on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Oct. 2, 2021.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Compassionate Caring with COVID Vax Commitment

Article Around MHS
10/6/2021
A  female doctor poses for a photo.

When pregnant patients have an appointment with Lt. Cmdr. Megan Northup at Naval Hospital Bremerton, they get more than a qualified and caring OB/GYN physician.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Retired colonel leads Fort Irwin COVID response mission

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
Army Col. Richard Hopkins, the COVID-19 response coordinator with Weed Army Community Hospital, collects paperwork from a Soldier who received the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event.

Retired Army Col. Richard Hopkins volunteered under the Army’s COVID-19 Retiree Recall Program to return to service as the COVID-19 response coordinator for Weed Army Community Hospital and Fort Irwin, California.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2
Refine your search
Last Updated: August 15, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery