The fight against COVID-19 has been described as a war.
Brian Miller, director of Procurement at PSEG Long Island, would agree.
Miller is an Army veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now a deputy commanding general in the Army Reserve. He just returned from 28 days of duty coordinating support for the Army Corps of Engineers as they identify sites, design conversion plans, and build alternate care facilities across the nation.
“This pandemic is having a gigantic impact on the country,” Miller said. “It has impacted people in many ways that are often horrific. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones. With the loss of life, it was somewhat similar to my time in Afghanistan and Iraq where people were fighting and dying.”
He described some of the parallels: The “fog of war;” an enemy that is hard to identify or nail down; and significant impact on noncombatants.
Working out of the Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington, D.C., Miller was part of a high-level team that identified and filled personnel gaps where technical engineers were needed.
With nonessential travel banned by the Army, Miller attended twice-daily update meetings, seven days a week, with Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commander of the Corps of Engineers. Operating from an office building where everyone wore PPE and sanitized as though everyone was infected, he led a 10-person team to handle all of the staff work necessary.
Miller’s team helped mobilize 169 Army Reserve engineers who played key roles in assessing possible alternate health facility sites, running emergency operations centers and providing quality control for several construction projects for these health facilities.
“The biggest challenge was the dynamic nature of tracking the virus and the medical shortfalls and needs of communities across 50 states and five territories, and then anticipating where we might have a shortage of engineer support,” Miller said.
The efforts Miller supported are expected to help create 15,000 temporary hospital beds. Now that he has returned to his work at PSEG Long Island, Miller looks forward to applying some of the lessons he learned from Gen. Semonite.
“During a complicated crisis, it is best to develop simple solutions and share them widely,” Miller said. “Communication is key.”
Thank you for your service, Brian.