FORT BENNING, Ga. – The deputy commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command spent the day observing mitigation measures the Maneuver Center of Excellence has established to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of the force.
Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the MCoE and Fort Benning, led the site visit that demonstrated the proactive measures the installation is taking to protect Soldiers, families and civilians who live and work here.
Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, TRADOC deputy commanding general and chief of staff, visited April 23 after the Army’s two-week pause in shipping future Soldiers ended.
Training centers used the two-week pause to reset the training base’s footprint, Martin said.
“We needed to revamp our program of instruction, we needed to make sure we trained and educated the cadre so they can safeguard our Soldiers,” Martin said.
COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the TRADOC mission, he said, even in how the Army recruits.
“It’s a terrible enemy,” Martin explained, “that we can’t see and truly don’t fully understand it right now. But we have to continue to help build the combat power of the U.S. Army.”
Before recruits can ship from the military entrance processing stations, Martin said they have to answer five screening questions pertaining to COVID-19. When the future Soldiers arrive at the 30th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), Lt. Col. Alicia Pruitt’s team meets them with the same five questions, a thermometer and hand sanitizer before they can enter the battalion headquarters for inprocessing.
Pruitt, the battalion commander, discussed the “two plus eight” model of training, which has revamped the first two-weeks in order to conduct controlled monitoring and confirm no one has the virus before shipping to Infantry, Armor and Cavalry one-station unit training.
The recruits are in a platoon-sized bubble, Pruitt said, learning about the Army, its values and conducting physical readiness training before reintegrating to a company-sized element at two weeks.
“The culture change the Army is undergoing right now is phenomenal,” Martin said. “We are showing that we are an agile and adaptive Army, probably more here (TRADOC) than anywhere else in our great Army. … The drill sergeants, instructors and officers managing the Soldiers’ movement with a strict adherence to social distancing, which is really tactical dispersion. We’re treating this like it’s a battlefield. So a lot of things have changed, but they’ve changed for the better.”
Everywhere Martin visited, he saw the precautionary measures in place to protect the health of the force and maintain operational readiness. Before entering the Bradley Training Division at Harmony Church, a Soldier at the door talked about the guidance outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and the Defense Health Agency to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
While there, he visited advanced individual training and a classroom where Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Smith, a Bradley Advanced Leader Course instructor, demonstrated how the class could use distance learning for a portion of the training.
Martin, who served as the 45th chief of Armor, asked about what makes sense for the distance-learning portion of the course versus the resident course.
“We need to make sure Soldiers enrolled in distance learning aren’t working for their home unit, being tasked to the motor pool,” he said during the discussion.
At the logistic support area on Kelley Hill, a place where Soldiers wait before shipping to the next duty station, Brito said they are only there briefly – while waiting for transportation. Martin met with Col. James McGahey, commander of the 199th Infantry Brigade, to discuss how Fort Benning is moving Soldiers using social distancing guidelines to maintain the health of the force.
The final stop on Martin’s itinerary was seeing how the Maneuver Captains Career Course could use distributed learning platforms and discussing the lessons learned from operating during the global pandemic.
“I think history will show that Training and Doctrine Command and (Maneuver Center of Excellence) at Fort Benning, we’ve done a phenomenal job. … Our numbers of COVID are extremely low.”
COVID has hit America and the Army hard, Martin said. Fort Benning needed a place to isolate and quarantine Soldiers who were moving to the installation for professional military education and a way to test Soldiers and families for the virus. Senior Army leaders made sure the MCoE has these capabilities.
“We will not be beat. We will learn how to win on the COVID battlefield,” Martin said.
Story by Lori Egan, MCoE Public Affairs