FORT BENNNING, Ga. – The secretary of the Army, sergeant major of the Army and Georgia’s two senators visited the Maneuver Center of Excellence to observe the COVID-19 health protection measures in place while the installation continues to train Soldiers.
Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the MCoE and Fort Benning, along with senior leaders took the visitors to Sand Hill’s 30th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) where new recruits start their Army career.
There, the leaders spoke about social distance enabled training, referred to as SDET. Battalion commander Lt. Col. Alicia Pruitt described the “two plus eight” or, for the one-station unit training here, “two plus 20” model of training, which has modified the first two-weeks in order to conduct controlled monitoring and confirm no one has the virus before shipping to Infantry, Armor and Cavalry OSUT.
Training and Doctrine Command did not change the program of instruction, Pruitt said, but shifted some of the “classroom training” like drill and ceremony, physical readiness training and Army values to the start of training in order to maintain social distancing protocols as cadre screen the trainees daily for the virus. This limits contact with others and puts the recruits in a training bubble.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy credited social distancing, leadership and discipline to the Army’s low numbers of positive COVID-19 cases.
The Army is putting bubbles around units where Soldiers are safe, McCarthy said. Soldiers can conduct training and be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world.
“If you look at the overall performance of the U.S. Army, all three compos, active, guard, reserve, civilians, contractors, dependents – it’s a population of millions of people and the cumulative infected rate of people is slightly over 2,700 worldwide,” McCarthy said.
“That shows it is the performance of this extraordinary institution and it’s the leaders at the street level who have made very hard calls, and they wake up every day and they’re on offense.”
McCarthy praised MCoE leadership and Martin Army Community Hospital staff for making the hard calls at the beginning of the pandemic.
“This leadership team was one of the first in the U.S. Army … to raise the health protection condition level and posture this installation to endure this crisis,” the secretary said. “(They) also found a way to keep training Soldiers, keep that throughput moving, getting these folks to FORSCOM and prepared to deploy worldwide. Because we have continued to deploy worldwide.”
McCarthy said there are 191,000 people deployed overseas, worldwide, in combat operations and the Middle East. There are about 50,000 Soldiers between all three components, National Guard, Reserves and active duty, responding in the cities, building hospitals to create access capacity, and working 24 hours a day to develop a vaccine at the Fort Detrick Medical Research and Development Command.
“At every phase of this fight, the U.S. Army has been on offense since the COVID pandemic has taken shape here in America,” McCarthy said.
This is probably one of the safest places on the planet for COVID, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston.
“You’ve got a controlled group,” he continued. “You’ve got well-trained NCOs and officers that are disciplined, that know how to enforce a standard. You bring them all together, that’s the hardest part – we have to bring people across and get them into the culture, but you bring them into a culture of rule followers. … We take pride in our discipline. We don’t want to let this enemy in, that’s our nature. We don’t let the enemy in our perimeter, and this is the new one. … When you see how training bases start the acculturation process in the military, this is one of the safest places to be.”