One year ago this month — after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic — U.S. European Command launched its first, formal support to NATO Allies and partners in what has now become a continuing mission against the highly infectious disease.
Led by the command’s interagency partnering directorate and its humanitarian branch, USEUCOM’s array of COVID-19 assistance was delivered to 24 European nations. From delivering personal protective equipment and sanitizing solutions for schools and assisted-living facilities to donating medical equipment for first responders, hospitals and clinics, USEUCOM personnel supported these life-saving efforts.
“Our support to Allies and partners during this unprecedented pandemic has been unwavering and resolute,” said civilian senior executive Wayne Raabe, director of USEUCOM’s interagency partnering directorate. “As the COVID-19 outbreak became an epidemic and continued to surge into a full-blown pandemic, none of us had any idea that we were about to experience a once-in-a-hundred-year crisis.”
As Italy became the first European nation hit in the growing COVID-19 storm, USEUCOM’s crisis and humanitarian response professionals identified and facilitated the swift transfer of $150,000 worth of medical equipment and related supplies from a military warehouse in Livorno to hospitals and clinics throughout Italy. That was followed by a focused $10 million in foreign disaster assistance from the U.S. to the country.
The first Italian assistance mission on March 20, 2020, launched what has become 93 completed USEUCOM humanitarian assistance projects — with another 53 in progress today — across 24 European nations, spanning the continent from Latvia to Greece and the Czech Republic to Azerbaijan. To date, $21.3 million in COVID-19 related donations have been programmed by USEUCOM.
“As a command, we responded as we always do to any contingency situation,” said U.S. Army Col. Kyle Simpson, USEUCOM’s civil partnership division chief. “We rapidly reacted to ever-shifting dynamics with focused strategic and tactical planning,” Simpson said. “Then, we executed effective, on-the-ground missions to battle the enemy — in this instance, an invisible, microscopic enemy.”
Funded through the U.S. Defense Department’s Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid program, USEUCOM’s COVID-19 assistance to Allies and partners was closely coordinated with offices of Defense Cooperation and U.S. embassies across Europe. Hand in hand with military counterparts, the crisis experts worked alongside a range of host-nation ministries and governmental organizations to identify needed support projects the command could consider, approve, fund, locally contract and ultimately deliver.
“As part of America’s whole-of-government response, USEUCOM’s efforts saved lives across Europe,” Simpson said. “With each donation delivery, we also strengthened our long-held relationships with Ally and partner nations and their citizens, demonstrating that America stood ready to support them in their time of need.”
State Partnership Program
Another important tool in the command’s arsenal to combat the spread of COVID-19 is the U.S. Defense Department’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP pairs a state’s National Guard with a partner nation in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
In Nov. 2020, a six-member National Guard medical team from U.S. states Texas and Nebraska deployed to their State Partnership Program (SPP) partner nation, the Czech Republic, to provide medical support as that nation faced threatening levels of nationwide infection.
In addition, two nations provided COVID-19 support to the United States, as two separate teams — one from Poland, the other Romania — deploying to the U.S. to provide support in their partner states.
Armed with expertise gained from treating COVID-19 patients in Poland and Italy, a nine-member military medical team from Warsaw, Poland, conducted a 10-day observe, advise and assist mission to Chicago in April 2020. As part of its mission, the team of doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians exchanged treatment techniques, medical best practices and lessons learned from their European experience.
In June 2020, another 15-member specialized military medical team from Romania deployed to the state of Alabama and conducted a two-week mission, providing critical medical support. The team of military doctors, nurses and chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear specialized officers assisted long-term care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals across the state.
These are but a few examples of U.S. and European country collaboration through the State Partnership Program. Many more Ally and partner nation militaries and U.S. National Guardsmen have joined together virtually to share valuable lessons learned and assist in important pandemic response process improvements
“Given the invaluable frontline experience that these military medical teams gained fighting COVID-19 during the pandemic’s height, we remain truly grateful to each country for sending their teams to assist in America’s fight against COVID-19,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jessica Meyeraan, USEUCOM’s deputy director of partnering, security cooperation and missile defense. “This pandemic has devastated communities and countries, but it has also demonstrated and solidified the unyielding bonds that we share as global citizens, as NATO Allies, as enduring friends.”