By Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson Commanding General
This week I want to talk with you about a dangerous trend that will have a significant impact on our continuing mission to train Soldiers at Fort Jackson and your Soldiers' future in the Army. The trend I am referring to is Families and friends attempting (some successfully) to "infiltrate" the installation on Family Day and Basic Combat Training graduation day to spend time with their loved one. Even though we go to great lengths to inform Family members that these events have been closed to the public since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic reached South Carolina and Fort Jackson, some either don't get the message or choose to ignore the message entirely. This behavior must stop immediately.
Fort Jackson’s COVID-19 RESPONSE
What's on my mind:
The U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson are dedicated to meeting critical mission requirements for the Army while safeguarding the health and wellness of our Families and our future Soldiers. However, to continue doing this, we need your help and support to preserve force health protection.
During this pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to maintain a safe training environment for your Soldiers. We accomplish this by following a rigorous risk assessment process with detailed testing procedures to mitigate the spread of this disease on Fort Jackson, as Soldiers report to new duty assignments and spread of this disease throughout our country.
I shared many of my thoughts, in detail, during our last Fort Jackson virtual town hall regarding Families attempting to see their Soldier. The essential takeaway is by doing this, you have inadvertently become a threat to our mission success by placing the health and safety of your Soldier and their teammates in jeopardy. I also want to caution everyone against becoming a “Good Samaritan” COVID-19 enabler on the installation. We have cadre, support staff and organizations that have provided various means of assistance to our trainees in the past.
Normally this is a good thing, however under present conditions these Good Samaritan’s unknowingly assist in breaking the training bubble with possible dire consequences.
Please understand. Once your Soldier reports to basic combat training, they immediately enter a "safe training bubble" for the next 10+ weeks. This bubble has proven successful in not only Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training, and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy training. For BCT alone, we have successfully shipped over 15,000 Soldiers since March without a single positive COVID-19 case reported among our Soldiers at the gaining installation. We would very much like to maintain this standard and increase this record of excellence.
What Families fail to understand is Family Day activities, and BCT Graduations are privileges for visitors and not a right. By regulation, graduation day is a requirement for the Soldier, whether we have an audience or not. It is a severe risk to our mission and the general public for un-screened and un-tested family members or friends to have physical contact with their Soldier during this crucial transition time. Any Soldier found to have linked up with unauthorized personnel violates General Order 2 and is subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The second order of consequences for this violation is by transmitting COVID-19 to a Soldier will start a chain reaction that we have fought hard for months to contain. The primary danger of not detecting a positive COVID-19 case within a 24-hour window between graduation to shipping operations the next day will set a large portion of our entire TRADOC enterprise up for failure by potentially sending Soldiers who are COVID-19 positive to possibly 66 different installations.
I understand entirely Family and friends wanting to see and support their Soldiers at each phase of their career. I have a son who is a Soldier as well, and I haven't seen him in over a year. We are living in extraordinary times and must fully embrace the consequences of our actions. The inability of Families and friends to act in good conscience for the greater good of all will not only place our Soldiers, our mission at risk, but many others.