Lisa Ann Rohr, American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Program Manager Returns from Iraq
Narrated to Lawrence D. Dietz, Public Affairs Officer, Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region
Lisa Ann Rohr was one of nine Red Cross SAF Mobile personnel who left the U.S. for overseas duty from August 2020 to April 2021. Lisa Ann was one of two Red Crossers initially stationed in Iraq, at the diplomatic post Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC).
Lisa Ann’s core U.S. roles and responsibilities for SAF in the Northern California Coastal Region of the Red Cross are Follow-up Casework, Military Treatment Facility (MTF) programs, including Licensed Medical Volunteer placement, and Military Entrance Processing Station Briefing program management.
As for deployments, Red Cross SAF Mobile Staff are assembled into rotating deployment teams from Continental US and Outside Continental U.S. Red Cross regions for a six-month mission. Lisa Ann, with her eight colleagues, were known as Team 44.
Team 44 was deployed to Kuwait, Iraq, Africa, Romania and Poland, and only Kuwait had more than one SAF Representative for a 6-month rotation. Iraq generally has two representatives, though three weeks into the Iraq deployment, Team 44 Lead left for medical reasons.
As was the case for the rest Team 44 within their respective countries, Lisa Ann’s primary responsibility was Casework Delivery on behalf of the Hero Care Call Center, and phone follow-up with service members stationed in one of the deployed countries to ensure the Hero Care Call Center (HCC) services met the needs of military individuals or their immediate family members.
Casework Delivery means delivering Emergency Communication Messages to Military Command Staff as conveyed to HCC. All requests with their circumstances are verified before the Delivery Team reads messages word-for-word to Commanders or the authorized Officer in Charge. Within Lisa Ann’s six years with SAF, Military Commanders from all U.S. Branches of Service have conveyed their deep appreciation for Red Cross carrying the direct burden of sorting fact from embellished circumstances before a military commander authorizes or declines emergency leave requests.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a year of shut-downs. Team 44 endured an extended 7-month rotation with the additional requirements of COVID-19 tests and 14-day quarantines for every country Team 44 landed in. During their stay in each country, the team underwent extensive military-required courses in cultural studies and military protocols, in addition to Red Cross programs and additional HCC casework trainings. The mandatory country quarantines extended Team 44’s door-to-door deployment to eight months.
On the job in Baghdad Iraq, near the “Green Zone”
Like many of Lisa Ann’s Team 44 peers, she worked in Iraq without a second representative, without volunteers, and with limited to zero in-person interaction with uniformed military. Unlike the countries where Lisa Ann’s peers were located, Iraq is an active conflict zone.
Incoming drones, rockets, and heightened security drills were a weekly occurrence. Running for the nearest bunker wherever you are, required wearing “a kit” on a moment’s notice – being in military uniform with a combat helmet and heavy flak jacket for blasts, not just small arms, was a mindful burden, 24/7.
On occasion, while on a casework delivery call or attending a Team 44 virtual meeting, Lisa Ann had to cut and run to the nearest bunker for incoming rockets or security drills. Generally, alone and without water in hand, time in a bunker varied widely for Lisa Ann – from 40 minutes for a security drill to over 4 hours for a rocket or drone. Staying inside the Red Cross trailer or sleeping quarters was not an option.
Lisa Ann was one of three evening representatives for Delivery Casework to Command throughout the Middle East, not just Iraq. She delivered 650 case records over the first six months.
Lisa Ann was one of five day representatives, providing a much lower volume of Casework Delivery to Command during the day, due to the 7 to 10-hour time difference with U.S. communities calling the Hero Care Call Center to request Emergency Messages for service members. Team 44’s additional day activities included virtual military briefings and preparing hospitality areas for “Return to Operations”, morale and resiliency benefits.
Lisa Ann’s responsibilities in Iraq evolved to full restoration of the Red Cross Facility in Iraq from damages and decay. After the original building was completed, U.S. military required Red Cross to move to a different, much smaller building. Lisa Ann incorporated unforeseen downsizing as a greater opportunity to support the largest Task Force Med Group and Hospital for the Middle East with towels, shower shoes and Wounded Warrior bags. Researching additional underserved military locations, far more boxes of shower and hygiene products, books, audio books, packaged snacks, and electrolyte powders for water were shipped to forward operating bases and military units throughout the Middle East. Many units or locations were without a military retailer, Post Exchange (PX) or Amazon delivery options. Once forward locations were saturated with special Red Cross boxes of personal care and resiliency products, Team 44 shipped to share their overstock of specific items among the five SAF deployment sites facing shortages for service members.
“While mindful of COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, every moment of our time deployed is not about you as a person making right or wrong decisions,” Lisa Ann said. “In the end, more important are the individuals willing to think creatively, respecting NHQ directives with transparency.” This is done to positively impact services, programs and projects. “It should be a selfless act to boost the morale of deployed troops,” she explained. “From individual soldiers to military units, showing troops you care about them as people while distributing Red Cross products or being good listener, motivated the most solemn with hope, support, and encouragement.”
Red Cross mission activities: Flexibility and creativity in the face of pandemic restrictions
Lisa Ann established a Red Cross DVD Library at the MWR with an updated digital catalog of 908 titles for contactless distribution. The same digital catalog concept for contactless distribution was initiated and completed for over 425 books at the Red Cross Library.
Lisa Ann was able to establish her own connection to the military by supporting all uniformed service members while deployed at BDSC.
To boost morale among all U.S. military units with International Coalition Partners deployed to BDSC, she organized three international military instructors and more than 26 students for Beginner to Conversational English Classes and Beginner Italian Language Classes. She also assembled three additional international military instructors to teach International Cooking Classes with Cultural History lectures in addition to U.S. Forces activities. All activities were held away from the closed Red Cross hospitality house. Coordinated activities – without Lisa Ann’s presence – were well attended at open air military compounds and the MWR Pavilion. Observing 6-foot distancing and masks requirements outdoors varied.
“My entire ‘boots on the ground’ experience providing virtual services in Emergency Communications Messaging Delivery and Service Member follow-up with my peers, to creative ‘no contact’ distribution of incoming holiday donations, gifts and personal care items, to organizing cooking classes, language classes, and cultural history classes for U.S. and Coalition military forces serving their deployment rotation at BDSC, was a dream come true!”
In conclusion, Lisa Ann said, “Working with CONUS and OCONUS SAF Mobile Staff stationed around the world was a rewarding experience forever imprinted within my soul and work ethics. A memorable 8-month mission moment.”
“In a fierce, sometimes frightening, windy climate of over 119-degree heat during the day, to embracing cooling trends of 88-93 degrees at night, deployment to the Middle East is not easy.
“I am ready and requesting to deploy again!”
Dedicated to my family, SAF Mobile Staff Teams and National Red Cross Leadership who prepares and supports every deployment mission to benefit deployed U.S. Military Forces. – Lisa Ann Rohr
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