CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Thousands of miles from Colorado, a Highlands Ranch emergency room doctor is working hard to keep hometown soldiers protected from the coronavirus.
Dr. Andrew Coleman is one of more than 150 members of the Colorado National Guard currently deployed to Kosovo for training at a NATO base near the Kosovo/North Macedonia border called Camp Bondsteel.
“You know, a big part of what we’re doing now is just looking out for corona,” Coleman told FOX31’s Jeremy Hubbard, who visited the base in Kosovo last week.
Kosovo is nearly 6,000 miles from Colorado. The men and women of the Colorado National Guard are members of helicopter crews conducting exercises alongside other NATO forces at the eastern European base.
Back at home, Coleman is an emergency room doctor at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. But a few weeks ago, he temporarily left that job to fulfill his duties as a guardsman.
Coleman and the other troops are paying close attention to the headlines back home, and the growing coronavirus threat. It’s a threat Coleman knows will likely become all too real for soldiers at Camp Bondsteel.
“So on a day-to-day basis, we’re really watching the news reports, and we know it’s knocking on our door, I mean a couple of cases now reported in Macedonia,” Coleman said.
He has an on-base clinic, and he has a plan if someone gets sick. But the remote base isn’t an ideal place for it to happen.
“There’s limited resources here on Bondsteel to isolate folks. And so space is a big constraint. And then the other question is: if we do have any of those folks who get really sick with corona, now we have to evacuate them, we have to get them on board a helicopter, we have to somehow keep the crew onboard the helicopter safe from this super infectious illness,” he said.
The good news: at the moment, there are only 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kosovo, partially because it’s not exactly a tourist hotspot.
Like so many other deployed Colorado troops, Coleman left a wife and two little girls back home in the Denver area to serve his country.
His goal right now is to get himself and all the other Colorado soldiers back home, healthy and safe from the traditional dangers – and the untraditional ones.
“It’s not if, it’s when. It’s such an infectious illness, it’s going to be here at some point,” he said.
Coleman is on a three-month deployment to Kosovo. Most of the other Colorado National Guard members will deployed until November.