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Meet the US Army General tasked with finding a COVID-19 vaccine

WUSA9 interviewed General Gus Perna in February for our military housing investigation. Now, we’re learning more about his new mission with Operation Warp Speed.

WASHINGTON — Army General Gus Perna has been nominated to lead the nation's mission for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

WUSA9 sat down with General Perna in February to discuss how he was fixing the rampant problems in military housing that our investigations uncovered. Now we're learning more about his role as the Chief Operating Officer of Operation Warp Speed to "accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines." 

After our housing investigation interview, military families told us they appreciated Perna's straight forward, if not blunt, way of speaking, and it appears he's continuing that during this global pandemic.

Perna has posted weekly Facebook videos to his command page updating the public on the fight against this "invisible enemy." 

RELATED: 'We're not there yet. I would not dare tell you that' | One-on-one with Army general in charge of military housing

This week, GEN Gus Perna talks about his nomination to be the chief operations officer of Operation Warp Speed and the effort to find a vaccine for , "I promise I will do more than my best, I will do what is required to get us to the finish line," he said.

On the day he was named COO of Operation Warp Speed, he shot a message to his troops.

“Ok, good morning, team,” he said. “I'm in a different office today, not my normal one in Huntsville, Alabama, I'm up in Washington, DC.”

That afternoon, Perna joined President Trump in the Rose Garden, where the world learned about his new mission.

GEN Perna message to the workforce on COVID-19. 15 May 2020

In GEN Gus Perna's weekly message he reminds the workforce to stay disciplined, both personally and professionally in your efforts to prevent the spread of #COVID19, reminding everyone that this fight is not over. “Don’t let up now. What is in your best interested is your ability to take care of yourself,” said GEN Perna. He highlighted the measured approach AMC enterprise will take to return employees back to the office, saying the command is putting things in place now to prevent the spread of the virus but that it will take a total team effort. “One individual who is not disciplined will cause the spread of the virus. Stay diligent, disciplined and determined. We will come out of this stronger than we went into it. We will be a stronger organization in support of our great Army,” GEN Perna said.

Posted by U.S. Army Materiel Command on Friday, May 15, 2020

Looking at Perna's bio, this kind of appointment is not really surprising. He's spent much of his career in logistics for the Army. Right now, he leads a force of 190,000 and oversees the global supply chain for the Army. 

It's an important experience, as the President has said when a vaccine is ready, the military would be enlisted to distribute it.

RELATED: Trump unveils 'Operation Warp Speed,' predicts COVID-19 vaccine by year end

But it's not the only line on his resume that could make a difference here. Perna had a lead role in coordinating the massive drawdown in Iraq, which he discussed in a post from May 1.

“At the end of the day, the 7,000 soldiers that ran convoys, that supported those soldiers that were on the front lines, that endangered themselves, took and understood the responsibility to serve -- that's what we're doing today," Perna said. "We're serving our nation.”

Perna explained he uses data to assess risk and make decisions during the coronavirus pandemic. His video chats show he takes this virus seriously. Many people can probably relate to an anecdote he shared when he arrived in Washington for the announcement.

RELATED: President Trump to name former pharmaceutical executive as vaccine czar

“I immediately broke out my wipes, like a professional cleaner,” he described. “I did it once and I was pretty comfortable that I did it well. I just couldn't help myself in doing it two, three, four, five, six more times.”

Before joining the President, he left those in his command with a message, one he might take with him to his next post.

“Maintain the due-diligence and determination and the persistence to fight against COVID, both personally and professionally,” he added. “Don't let up now.”

The full Senate still has to confirm General Perna to the new post. He's already testified in front of the Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill.

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