Initial training for Navy and Marine Corps recruits is continuing, as the services have adapted to keep the training pipeline open while maintaining safety measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. William F. Mullen, commanding general of Marine Corps Training and Education Command and Navy Rear Adm. Milton J. Sands, commander of Naval Service Training Command, briefed reporters at the Pentagon by telephone, July 7.
Officials at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and MCRD San Diego in California are emphasizing social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment, reinforcing hygiene measures, imposing a 14-day restriction of movement on recruits prior to training, and testing recruits for COVID-19, Mullen said.
Though the semiannual physical fitness test has been waived across the Marine Corps, it is not being waived at the recruit depots or for formal learning centers where the test is part of the program of instruction and a graduation requirement, he added.
MCRD San Diego is limiting the number of recruits per company to 325, and Parris Island is limiting the number to 454 for men and 120 for women due to the different styles of barracks, he noted.
The 10 days of leave that Marines normally take after graduation has been canceled, he said, allowing the Marine Corps to control the transportation method to the School of Infantry for their follow-on training.
Because about 52% of military occupational specialty schools are at other service locations, these protective measures were put into place to reassure the other services, Mullen said.
Particular attention is being paid to areas of high congregation where exposure is the riskiest, such as mess halls, chapels, physical fitness locations and classrooms, he said.
Testing at military processing stations and reception battalions and the use of quarantine and isolation are resulting in a “protective bubble,” Mullen said, adding that recruits who test positive for COVID-19 are moved to a single room and quarantined.
Sands mentioned similar COVID-19 mitigation efforts for the Navy.
At Naval Service Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, the Navy’s only enlisted boot camp, the service is on track to meet the Navy’s goal of 40,800 recruits for this fiscal year. Some 6,700 recruits are in basic training, and 1,200 new recruits are shipped each week, he said.
Training has not been degraded, the admiral said, noting that every sailor continues to receive training in the five basic competencies: firefighting, damage control, watch standing, seamanship and small-arms handling and marksmanship. Sailors train as a team and are inculcated with the Navy’s core values, he said
Sands added that the Navy Officer Training Command in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, have implimented similar requirements as those in place at the enlisted training sites.