By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Anyone who has attempted to enter Fort Carson during the last month has undoubtedly noticed a few stark changes.
Soldiers and DOD civilians guarding the post’s Installation Control Points (ICPs or gates) are fully decked out with eye protection, face coverings and latex gloves. They seldom handle identification cards and maintain as much distance from vehicle occupants as possible.
Such is life in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While many in the community often exhibit frustration when faced with abrupt changes, the guard force seems to have taken them in stride.
“Flexibility is key in performing the job at the ICPs,” said Maj. Robert Rapone, executive officer, Directorate of Emergency Services at Fort Carson. “The ICP Soldiers and civilians are our front line to the installation, so they are the first people, the first sign of activity that a lot of people see as they come onto the post. That’s why its important for them to be able to exercise their interpersonal skills.”
Everyone who works or lives on Fort Carson comes through one of seven ICPs (Gate 2 has been closed since mid-March), so its important for the ICPs to communicate with individuals effectively, Rapone explained. At the same time, the guards are also the installation’s first line of defense.
“As guards scan ID cards and validate people coming on, they’re checking for people who have been barred from entering and for those who have outstanding warrants. We are able to keep a lot of people who we wouldn’t want on the installation or in our community out, due to the guards’ vigilance.”
The guard force includes three distinct elements, military police with the 759th Military Police Battalion, Department of the Army civilians and borrowed military manpower from the 4th Infantry Division, Soldiers who have been tasked to perform as an ICP operator on temporary duty.
Along with other 759th MP Bn. units, the 59th Military Police Company has rotated to perform ICP and patrol duties. The company recently returned from a nine-month deployment to Germany, and is also the reigning Bandholtz award holder (presented to the best MP unit in the Army).
“There are always a lot of changes when these kinds of things occur,” said Capt. James Walton, commander, 59th MP Company. “This is unknown territory for everyone: the civilian side, our first responders and Soldiers. This (COVID-19 response) is just new to the world in general, so a lot of changes are coming down, which means we have to be flexible; and we have been.”
Spc. Aaron Sanders, military police officer, 59th MP Co., believes the job hasn’t changed much.
“It’s the conditions that are different,” he said. “We’re protecting people, enforcing the three-man per group distance measures (and) ensuring people are wearing face coverings at the (Expresses).”
While community members who maintain contact with others may worry about the increased risk of contracting the coronavirus, the MPs said they’re not too concerned.
“We’ve implemented strict rules, with the face coverings and the latex gloves, the eye pro and the distancing measures at the gates, so it hasn’t been a huge issue,” said Staff Sgt. Melani Fairchild, squad leader, 59th MP Co. “The gates have been consistent and pretty smooth. We are doing more walking patrols these days, though. We’re trying to get out and implement ways to show we are still here, enforcing social distancing and maintaining a presence.”