By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
Editor’s note: This was updated as of May 6, 2020. For the most up-to-date information visit https://www.carson.army.mil/, and follow Facebook @USArmyFortCarson.
FORT CARSON, Colo. — As the state of Colorado moved to a less restrictive posture in late April, Fort Carson leaders provided some guidance for community members during their weekly town hall update April 29, 2020.
Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, relayed information about several topics that affect Soldiers and Families directly. While announcing upcoming deployments for the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, McFarlane also said Fort Carson leaders expect to receive official guidance on how to proceed with summertime permanent change of station (PCS) moves. Visit https://www.carson.army.mil/assets/docs/covid/pcs-separations-fact-sheet.pdf for the most up-to-date PCS changes.
“In the meantime, we did receive an all-Army activities message that reissues and updates personnel policy guidelines in support of the Army’s COVID-19 response,” he said. “Most of the existing polices did not change, but the Army did clarify guidance for Soldiers in specific situations, such as TDY en route.”
One notable change, he said, effective immediately and ending Dec. 31, 2020, leave authorized for PCS, including travel days, will be limited to less than 10 days. Additionally, permissive temporary duty for house hunting will not be granted by the losing commander.
Leaders will continue to provide updates about leave to Soldiers and Families via social media posts and through the 4th Inf. Div. command sergeant major.
McFarlane also encouraged community members to be proactive in monitoring their symptoms if they feel sick.
“Our understanding of the coronavirus continues to evolve,” he said. “People with COVID-19 have had a wide-range of symptoms reported, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated COVID-19 symptoms to include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, shaking, muscle pain, sore throat and a loss of taste or smell.”
Around the country, a number of states have started to lift restrictions to varying degrees, including Colorado. Coloradans are no longer ordered to stay at home, but strongly advised to stay at home, only have contact with their immediate Families and only leave home for essential activities. Critical businesses are open and noncritical businesses are operating with restrictions.
“All of these guidelines and the governor’s directives are in line with what we are doing here at Fort Carson,” McFarlane said. “We are still limiting activities on post to those we deem readiness critical. However, we will re-evaluate these activities each week to determine what we can safely do to ensure we remain ready to respond to the nation’s call.”
To see the latest information on services available, visit https://www.carson.army.mil/.
He reiterated that Fort Carson’s curfew is still in effect from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. each day (as of press time May 6, 2020). During these hours, service members are required to be at their place of residence, whether in the barracks, in on-post quarters or off-post housing. Civilian Family members on post are encouraged to abide by this guidance as well.
Moving forward, leaders announced Fort Carson units are now holding squad-level accountability formations five days a week, ensuring six-foot separation between each Soldier as well as proper social distancing between groups.
“Following this accountability, we’re executing physical training between groups of two-to-three Soldiers,” McFarlane said. “We’ve seen some good PT this week, but we need your help in reinforcing the standards. This is not squad PT; it is buddy teams keeping proper separation while running or working out. Additionally, we will separate units by time throughout the day and in various locations so that we are not clustering large groups anywhere.”
Signaling somewhat of a return to normal activity, McFarlane announced some 4th Inf. Div. units will require readiness critical activities beginning in the coming weeks. For example, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat team may initiate some overnight, small-unit training in mid to late May 2020.
Responding to questions asked during the virtual town hall, McFarlane said he would like U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson as well as Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation leaders to begin searching for ways to reopen post gyms. They remained closed as of press time May 6, 2020.
“Until then, we are prioritizing the distribution of our Army Combat Fitness Test kits and gyms-in-a-box to allow Soldiers to get a gym workout while outside,” he said. “We’ve already seen these set up in a few formations around post and we look forward to seeing more.”
Following the commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, implored Soldiers to follow distancing and protection measures while conducting PT.
“The squad accountability and the buddy-team PT is really important,” he said. “That’s going to start conditioning everyone to be physically healthy before we start getting back to training again. Once we get all the risk mitigation measures in place, we can start lowering some of the health protection measures.”
Recently, the DOD announced its initiative to test all service members in the near future. Col. Eric S. Edwards, commander, Evans Army Community Hospital, provided updates regarding COVID-19 testing, and explained the way forward to test all service members on Fort Carson.
McFarlane capped the town hall update by cautioning Soldiers and Families to continue practicing social distancing and solid hygiene habits.
“All units on this installation are learning how to adapt to the virus and how to operate and expand our operations,” he said. “We need to continue applying COVID-19 measures to keep everyone safe.”