Col. Craig Maceri fights “invisible enemy”: COVID-19
The Rhode Island National Guard commander is currently on military leave from Merck as part of an effort to combat the pandemic.
April 22, 2020
With 24 years in the Army, Col. Craig Maceri, director, HPV supply strategy, has been deployed on missions that have taken him as far away as Kuwait and Iraq. But his latest mission in Rhode Island might be the most unique: fighting against COVID-19.
“It’s definitely not like any deployment I’ve been on before,” says Craig. “Although we don’t have to worry about bombs and bullets – we do have to worry about an invisible enemy. There’s not really a front line; we can’t seek safety inside the wire, so we really have to do our best to figure out how to mitigate the impact of this spreading COVID-19.”
Craig is currently on military leave from Merck as commander of the Rhode Island National Guard’s Joint Task Force Guardian. He oversees Air National Guard and Army National Guard forces responding to the pandemic in Rhode Island. His team is conducting COVID-19 testing for symptomatic people in the state, carrying out contact tracing – determining people who have had contact with confirmed COVID-positive people so they can take appropriate quarantine measures – and providing support, such as supplying food, water, fuel and personal protective equipment (PPE), to sites the National Guard is operating in the state. Another of these mission sets for Joint Task Force Guardian is establishing alternate care facilities in case nearby hospitals reach capacity.
“We are all trying to flatten the curve while ensuring the safety and security of the people of Rhode Island,” says Craig.
Working as a unit while social distancing has its own challenges: There are no close formations or tightly packed conference rooms.
“It’s a different way of working,” explains Craig. “We have to continue to protect our forces as well. If somebody is suspected COVID-positive, we have to take very aggressive countermeasures so we can keep the soldiers and airmen healthy so they can complete these missions.” Craig says that military personnel usually “push through” coughs or sore throats during a normal deployment, but now, anyone who exhibits any type of symptoms gets sent home and tested for COVID-19.
Even with the risks involved, Craig says joining the efforts against the pandemic was a no-brainer.
“No one really wants to leave their family for an extended period of time, but it would have been very difficult for me to watch this unfold from the sidelines,” says Craig. “When something of this magnitude is going on and to have the capabilities to respond and help out the people of Rhode Island – I felt a calling to do this.”
Craig feels that his experience working on vaccine supply at Merck helps him streamline operations as he leads the joint task force.
“It can be very challenging having enough personnel to respond to all of the increasing mission sets,” he says. “We’re constantly taking on more and more and we need to figure out ‘how do we streamline operations and operate more efficiently?’ And concepts I learned at Merck – Lean fundamentals and Merck production system (MPS) principles – I apply in my job here.” Craig also says that Merck’s military leave policy gives him peace of mind that his family is taken care of while he’s away, while his management and the Veterans Employee Business Resource Group make him feel supported whether he’s on deployment or back at his desk.
Craig is looking forward to coming home to Pennsylvania, but says he needs help from his colleagues: “Stay at home, practice social distancing and wash your hands. Everybody has a part to play in battling this pandemic. The sooner we can flatten the curve, the sooner we can wrap things up here and the sooner I can get back to my family and get back to work.”