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Public recruit graduations will resume at San Diego boot camp, Marines say

Marine Corps Private First Class Sean F. Evans stands in front of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego (Marine Corps/Released)

One year after closing boot camp graduations to the public, the Marines are ready to welcome some members of the public back onto the recruit depot in San Diego to watch recruits graduate, the Marines said in a statement Monday.

Beginning April 22, each graduating Marine will be able to invite two guests to attend graduation and tour facilities at the base, the statement said. The Marines hold about 40 graduations per year in San Diego.

The announcement comes 13 months after the Corps suspended public graduations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are extremely proud to have families return to the depot for graduations,” said Brig. Gen. Ryan P. Heritage, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. “We look forward to welcoming more families in the near future, as more individuals receive the vaccination each day.”

Guests will be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival at the base and will have access to base facilities such as restaurants, the Marine Corps Exchange and the command museum, the Marines said.

Capt. Martin Harris, a depot spokesman, said everyone on the depot will be required to wear a mask at all times.

The pandemic changed how recruits are trained at the depot.

The Marines closed recruit graduations to the public on March 12, 2020, just as life for much of the world began to change in light of the spreading pandemic. Just weeks later, after dozens of recruits tested positive for the virus, the Marines altered how it trains recruits in what many Marines described as a “COVID environment.”

Recruits now endure a two-week quarantine at an area hotel to prevent the virus from being introduced to other recruits on the base. During that quarantine, recruits are housed with a roommate but not allowed to leave their rooms. Meals, exercise and recruit studies are all done within the confines of those rooms.

It’s only after this quarantine that recruits are issued uniforms, given haircuts and begin boot camp. While in training, recruits wear masks except during certain training exercises.

Recruit graduation traditions haven’t fully returned to pre-pandemic norms, Harris said. Graduations have shifted from Fridays to Thursdays and “Family Day,” which was held the day before graduation, remains suspended, Harris said.

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