Home : News
NEWS | Dec. 23, 2020

Michigan ANG helps keep deploying Airmen safe from COVID-19

By Capt. Andrew Layton Michigan National Guard

ALPENA, Mich. – On Dec. 15, the first Airmen arrived at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center from around the country as part of the facility’s support for the Headquarters Air Force-led “Restriction of Movement” (ROM) mission.

Alpena CRTC, in Northern Michigan, was selected this year by the Air Force’s active-duty component to serve as a ROM site, which provides a location for Airmen to spend two weeks in a controlled environment as a precaution to ensure they do not have COVID-19 before traveling to their overseas assignment.

“This is a very impactful mission in terms of supporting the men and women who are about to deploy and fight our nation’s wars,” said Col. James Rossi, Alpena CRTC commander. “When they arrive here, they are healthy. Our mission is to ensure they leave healthy and as physically and mentally prepared for their deployment as possible.”

According to the defense.gov website, a ROM is a general term for limiting movement to ensure health, safety and welfare. As opposed to a quarantine, which removes someone who was exposed to the virus, a ROM keeps someone from coming into contact with someone exposed to COVID-19.

The CRTC can accommodate nearly 250 people at a time for a ROM. An additional 50 temporary support staff have been assembled from Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and active-duty Air Force units in several states to enable the mission and care for Airmen participating in a ROM.

While some Airmen reporting for a ROM will fly directly to Alpena CRTC on military transport aircraft, others, traveling via commercial airlines, will be greeted by ROM support staff at airports around the state and transported to Alpena CRTC in Air Force vehicles.

“Our goal is to normalize the lives of these Airmen as much as possible while they are here,” said Lt. Col. Brian Wyrzykowski, deputy officer-in-charge for the ROM mission at Alpena CRTC. “While they will not be going off base, these men and women will have opportunities to go to the gym, dine at on-base facilities, leave their room, and participate in morale and recreational activities within a controlled structure.”

Wyrzykowski said that if a positive COVID-19 case is identified during the ROM, it will be quickly contained because contact is limited to a very small group – no more than 10 people during an Airmen’s time in the ROM.

“This program has been very carefully designed in partnership with physicians and public health specialists to be able to quickly contain any potential COVID-positive situation,” he said.

There are many ROM locations at active-duty Air Force bases across the country. In addition to Alpena CRTC, three other Combat Readiness Training Centers in the Air National Guard have been selected as ROM sites. The Alpena CRTC is expected to support the ROM mission at least through the spring.

Rossi said the Alpena CRTC was selected because of the base’s experienced personnel and infrastructure. It supports large training exercises like Northern Strike, held annually at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in Northern Michigan, which includes Alpena CRTC and Camp Grayling. An average of 6,000-7,000 people from across the Department of Defense and partner countries attend Northern Strike.

“The fact that Alpena CRTC was selected to provide this service to the men and women who, in some cases, are preparing to put their lives on the line for our defense is really something to be proud of, and we will give them our all to support their success while they are here,” said Rossi. “This mission is further proof that when Pentagon leaders are faced with challenges, they increasingly turn to Michigan and the outstanding defense resources in our state for the solution.”