Maj. Gen. Donna Martin took to Facebook on Wednesday to hold a virtual town hall meeting on Fort Leonard Wood’s response to coronavirus concerns, and delivered a message of some things being exactly the same and some very different.
All troop training exercises and classes, including basic training, will continue. New recruits from all over the country will still come to the military installation in Missouri’s Ozarks to take the first steps toward becoming a soldier.
But service members and their families on base face significant restrictions in travel. All personal leave has been canceled, and travel is only allowed in military-approved scenarios where COVID-19 screening protocols are in effect.
“Right now, service members are not authorized to remain off the installation or away from their quarters or homes overnight without proper approval,” Martin said.
While training will continue, it will look different. Martin said Fort Leonard Wood is working to be compliant with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations in limiting large gatherings.
Basic training graduation, long a time when families come to base to celebrate their loved ones' achievements, will be held with empty grandstands. The ceremonies will be shown online.
Martin said training exercises will look different, with smaller classes working in staggered shifts to keep the total number of people in close contact down.
“What you’ll also start to see is there are events that take a little bit longer as we limit the number of trainees that are participating in different events,” Martin said.
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Fort Leonard Wood, though testing has been limited. General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital on base cannot complete tests on-site, but it can take samples and send them to another military medical center to be analyzed.
The Army plans to follow the high threshold to be tested.
“The person needs to have symptoms and a fever indicating that they may have COVID-19. They also need to have been exposed to a high-risk area,” said Col. Kimberlie Biever, the hospital commander.
Fort Leonard Wood’s hospital also serves many veterans in the region. Those people will continue to be allowed on base for medical treatment.
“If retirees are enrolled with us as their primary care, absolutely, they can still come see us,” Biever said. “We have appointments available every day. As things unfold, we will be making changes to appointment times and appointment availability.”
As in the private sector, the direction from Fort Leonard Wood is that people should not go to the hospital if they think they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have the symptoms.
“Contact the Harper Inprocess Screening Clinic by phone,” Martin said.
The base is also taking on the other recommendations and procedures common outside the military. Civilians who can work at home will do so, and basic hygiene is stressed.
“I don’t want to sound like your parents, but see with your eyes, not with your hands,” Martin said. “Refrain from touching things, and wash your hands.”
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