Schriever Nerd Herd combats COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

The 50th Space Wing launched the Nerd Herd task force in efforts to better understand COVID-19 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, March 27.


The Nerd Herd is a task force made up of 1st Space Operations Squadron Airmen dedicated to modelling the disease and its possible spread in the local area through information compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


“Following the transition to a mission essential only posture at Schriever, [we] dove into the extremely limited academic research on COVID-19 and began working to model how the disease might spread and when a peak could occur in the local area,” said Capt. William Elder, 1st SOPS assistant operations officer.


Col. Jack Fischer, 50th Space Wing vice commander, dubbed the team “Nerd Herd” based on the members’ analytical nature and ability to combine well-defined mathematical and epidemiological models.


“The Nerd Herd is important to Schriever because there is no epidemiological or data analytic team directly supporting the wing,” said 1st Lt. Sarah Zaiser, 1st SOPS deputy crew commander. “There is a lot of information out there regarding COVID-19 and the decisions being made in the midst of all this uncertainty are not easy. We are trying to ease some of that uncertainty and provide helpful information to assist our leadership [in making] the best decisions possible for all those at Schriever.”


The unit primarily conducts their research from home while complying with physical distancing requirements.


“We have been working with basic epidemiological models to specifically model El Paso County and Schriever AFB [members],” Zaiser said. “Based on our research and working with other analysts [who are] looking at the effects of COVID-19 in the Air Force, we have created variations of basic suspected-infected-recovered models. As we get new information and data we update our models and report our findings.”


Keeping Airmen healthy and protecting wing and installation missions are priorities for leadership during COVIC-19 prevention efforts. 


“The Nerd Herd is providing Schriever with the background information needed for leadership to make sound decisions to keep Airmen, and the base’s missions, safe and sound – including the operation of our nation’s vital GPS satellites, relaying of scientific data from the South Pole Research Station, and the bulk of the monitoring of all man-made objects in deep space,” said Capt. Zach Funke, 1st SOPS spacecraft engineer.


 As the unit receives more information about COVID-19, they create updated models of the potential spread to provide 50th SW leadership with more accurate information.


“COVID-19 has upended our entire society’s daily routines and habits with the potential for long-term physical and mental health repercussions,” said Elder. “Recognize what you have control over in an emergency or unprecedented situation and focus on accomplishing that with the strengths of your team.”