TOWNHALL23.jpgFrom left: Col. Eric Flesch, commander of 165th Infantry Brigade, Col. Mark Huhtanen, 193rd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. John ‘Wes’ Hankins, garrison commander and Col. Tara Hall, Moncrief Army Hospital Clinic commander brief the Fort Jackson community during the biweekly Commanding General’s Virtual Town Hall on Special Topics July 16. During the town hall is was announced Andy’s Fitness Center inside the Solomon Center would be reopening.

By Robert Timmons                                                                                                                                                                                          Fort Jackson Public Affairs

“We are going to open Andy’s Fitness Center inside the Solomon Center seven days a week,” said Col. John “Wes” Hankins, Fort Jackson’s garrison commander, during the biweekly Commanding General’s Virtual Town Hall on Special Topics July 16.

Hankins led the town hall in place of Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr. He was joined by Col. Eric Flesch, 165th Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Mark E. Huhtanen, 193rd Infantry Brigade commander and Col. Tara Hall, Moncrief Army Health Clinic commander.

The opening of the fitness center was among the changes to Fort Jackson announced during the town hall.

More machines have been added to Andy’s to allow for more patrons to work out. Improved sanitization procedures will also be implemented. Andy’s will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Fort Jackson schools are scheduled to open on Aug. 24 using either in class or virtual teaching methods. Richland 2 School District is weighing the options of starting school Aug. 19 or after Labor Day Sept. 8. The options include virtual classrooms, eLearning and the use of traditional brick and mortar facilities.

“Please continue to monitor the appropriate website, and more importantly be sure your children are registered in school as students so they can receive updates from those schools,” Hankins said.

During the town hall, Flesch explained the 10-week training cycle and how some trainees may be affected by the COVID virus.

He said trainees may spend more time in Basic Combat Training. “Because of the COVID screening on the front end, individuals may be placed in quarantine or have a few weeks more on the front end if they are in contact with a positive, become positive with the virus and reinserted into training.”

Trainees who test positive, even if asymptomatic, “are taken and segregated from the rest of the population so it does not spread any further,” Flesch said. Many of them have returned back into the basic training pipeline.

“If they do test positive they will contact you, you can (be) rest assured of that,” he reassured any trainee Family member watching.

Huhtanen also spoke about the training cycle and what would happen to trainees if they test positive.

One “question asked is, ‘Does a Soldier have to go all the way back to the beginning of basic training?’ The answer is no. We find the best place to insert them depending on where they were at,” Huhtanen said. For instance if they come into contact with the virus later in the cycle, “we will find the right unit to put them in, so it does not put them in a disadvantage with training.”

Hall took a few minutes to discuss changes to MAHC.

“Moncrief is making gradual adjustments to our clinical services to best accommodate our patients in the local Fort Jackson community,” she said.

You can go to our website to get the full changes to our hours and services, she added. Moncrief’s website can be found at:

The Acute Care Clinic is open from 6 to 11 a.m. for advanced respiratory COVID screening only and its regular hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for all other acute care encounters.

Hall also asked patients to get electronic prescriptions to help the process run smoother.

Before the commanders took questions from the viewers, Hall reminded everyone to not let their guard down around the virus.

COVID-19 did not take a summer vacation, she said. “We did see here and nationally see a spike in cases after the Memorial Day weekend then after the 4th of July weekend.”

“We need to remain vigilant,” she said. “As Brigadier General Beagle says, ‘We have to protect the force in order to protect the mission.’”

The town hall ended after the ‘Fast 40’ question and answer period.

The next Virtual Community Town Hall on Special Topics is scheduled for July 30 at 3:30 p.m. It will be streamed live on the Fort Jackson Commanding General’s Facebook page.