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Fort Carson Mountaineer

Pandemic’s fifth week: Leaders recommend perseverance

Editor’s note: This was updated as of April 22, 2020. For the most up-to-date information visit https://www.carson.army.mil/, and follow Facebook @USArmyFortCarson.

By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Fort Carson leaders announced a few recent encouraging developments during a virtual town hall COVID-19 response update April 15, 2020.

During his opening remarks, Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, said the post has seen a reduction in the number of new cases among the population at Fort Carson.

“This could be the result of a combination of two factors,” he said. “The first is a potential lag in results, as some of our testing locations did not release results on weekends, and the second is our mitigation measures and your adherence to them. However, we cannot afford to misinterpret this data and draw the wrong conclusions. We must continue to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home directives so that we not only flatten the curve, but ensure the back of the curve gets back to zero.”

While post leaders announced the previous week that face coverings were required for exchange and commissary employees and patrons, McFarlane clarified, community members don’t have to purchase a mask. Cloth masks, bandanas, balaclavas and neck gators are acceptable. Those with breathing issues and children under 2 years of age are exempt from face coverings.

McFarlane also announced the 627th Hospital Center, which deployed to Washington to assist with COVID-19 response measures, would redeploy, and it did April 16, 2020. There was a caveat, however.

“The 627th HC is still required to be ready to go somewhere else in the country if necessary,” McFarlane said. “They must maintain a ready posture to deploy with a couple-of-days’ notice.”

While positive cases have taken a recent dive and medical Soldiers will soon be arriving back at Fort Carson, McFarlane explained other developments have caused the need for leaders to implement a night-time curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., every day on post.

“The curfew is in response to a number of late-night incidents and accidents in recent weeks,” he said. “We understand there will be exceptions to this — those who work night shifts or spouses who may work off post during night hours — however, this step is in line with our current COVID-19 restrictive measures that include stay-at-home and restriction of movement. It is also designed to protect our force.”

The commanding general also addressed news that Secretary of Defense Michael Esper has approved an extension to the 60-day restriction on all nonessential domestic and international DOD travel until June 30, 2020.

“I know this will cause some turbulence and uncertainty for a portion of those who may be expecting to move this summer,” McFarlane said. “Understand these measures are being placed for the protection of the entire force and if there are cases of extreme hardship, there are exceptions to this policy.”

He also spoke about Fort Carson leader’s health and wellness visitation program, saying that it’s not an inspection. “For service members, this is not a health and welfare,” he said. “This is a leadership visit to ensure that you and your Family are healthy and taken care of. Because we are not physically seeing each other every week this is our way of making sure you are OK and addressing any concerns you or your Family may have.”

After delivering news of 627th HC’s redeployment, McFarlane announced the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s upcoming rotation to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, will be postponed to August.

“As we receive more information about major exercises, we will let the Fort Carson community know as soon as we find out,” he said.

In responding to questions during the town hall, McFarlane said he believed there would be exceptions to the DOD stop-movement order for events such as Ranger school, master gunner school and potentially other professional military education schools.

“We’re working through that and have been discussing that in meetings with our higher headquarters throughout the week,” McFarlane said. “Specifically, for aviation, there is going to be a continued training pipeline there for that critical skill across our force and we’ll provide more details as we get them.”

As spring turns to summer, post leaders also announced that Fort Carson would be open to turkey hunting in a limited capacity, based on manpower and the logistics required to support opening hunting areas.

During his remarks to community members, Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, provided an update on Basic Leader Course (BLC) developments.

“We are working on the exception to policy process to ensure we can run a virtual BLC starting April 30,” he said. “The virtual BLC will be 22 days, with modifications for drill and ceremony and the physical readiness training assessment to abide by social distancing rules. We expect final approval soon. The division expects 165 Soldiers based on the Army’s priority fills for the selected population. If a Soldier is one of those 165, their chain of command will be reaching out and notifying them to start completing their packet.

It is unknown at this time if June’s BLC will be another virtual BLC or a hybrid version consisting of online and classroom portions.” In his closing comments, McFarlane said commercial shippers are still authorized to deliver goods on post, he also provided instructions for those whose household goods have been shipped and explained leaders’ intentions for implementing the night-time curfew.

“The purpose of the curfew isn’t to lock people down,” he said. “It’s to keep people separated and to prevent undo movement at night, when no one needs to be moving for essential services, as well as to ensure we’re taking the best care of ourselves and each other.”

Finally, April 19-25, 2020, is National Volunteer Week, a week when Fort Carson normally hosts a large ceremony to recognize and thank the volunteers who support the Army community throughout the year.

“Obviously, we can’t do that with our COVID-19 posture,” McFarlane said. “But I want to recognize and give our volunteers a heartfelt thank you. Volunteers make a difference in the lives of Soldiers and Families, and we’re grateful.”

Pandemic’s fifth week: Leaders recommend perseverance
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