GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Recent graduates from the 344th Military Intelligence Battalion here departed Goodfellow to join their operational units May 5.
The movement included about 50 Soldiers loading into buses on their way to six different installations around the country. The bus transportation is unique, being the most efficient way to move large numbers while staying within COVID-19 distancing requirements.
“Because of the COVID restrictions we are required to provide sanitized government transportation for our Soldiers to ensure their safety,” said U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class James Banks, 344 MI BN Plans and Operations NCO in charge. “Normally we would have our Soldiers obtain tickets and fly out of the San Angelo airport, but due to the current pandemic we cannot guarantee the health and well-being of our Soldiers if we were to continue this type of movement.”
The change was critical to keeping trained intelligence Soldiers moving to their first units, and allowing new students to arrive and begin training.
The transportation adjustment wasn’t the only challenge the 344 MI BN faced as a result of the social distancing restrictions. The instructors and staff made adjustments to training that kept the students on pace while staying healthy.
“Our excellent teams in the schoolhouse were able to quickly shuffle classes around to get to the mandated 10 Soldiers per class,” said Banks. “Because of their hard work and dedication, the split shifts and shorter classroom hours, all of our students will still graduate on time with the same knowledge that every other student that comes through our schoolhouse receives.”
With Goodfellow as the sole intelligence training base for the U.S. armed forces, adjustments like these are needed to keep healthy service members flowing through training and out to the units where they are needed.
“If we aren’t able to move them out of here, we can’t accept anybody else so it puts a complete stop in our pipeline, which then means we have a gap throughout the entire operational Army,” said U.S. Army Capt. Marion Wiedemann, 344 MI BN Alpha Company commander. “No one has seen this before, so it’s all about what we can do to remain flexible in times of crisis.”