200305-A-ZN169-022 - Copy.jpgFort Jackson commander, Brig. Gen. Milford H. 'Beags' Beagle Jr., and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah Gan, listen to a question from the audience during a Community Town Hall on Special Topics March 5 in the Post Theater. The aim of the meeting was to arm the Fort Jackson community with the information needed to prevent COVID-19, by informing them of the post's plan to mitigate the illness, its prevention, detection and containment approach. "We have to share the information; it does none of us any good if we don't share it," Beagle said during the town hall. (Photo Credit: Mr. Robert Timmons (IMCOM))

By Robert Timmons

Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Though the post has not experienced a case of COVID-19, Fort Jackson began rolling out a response it spent weeks planning. This plan includes disseminating accurate information and taking steps to reduce the virus' effects on the post and its mission.

Fort Jackson has hosted community town halls; instituted new ID card procedures at all access points; cancelled or modified Family Day and graduation; and implemented improved screening procedures for recruits and trainees. It is all part of the post's three-phased approach of prevention, detection and containment.

Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander, and other post officials spoke at CG's Community Town Halls on Special Topics about the installation's approach to COVID-19 to help bolster the community's confidence in the installation's actions and the way ahead. The town halls were live March 5-7, but there will be virtual town halls every Thursday.

"We have to share the information ... it does none of us any good if we don't share it," Beagle said during the March 5 town hall.
The town halls also help control rumors.

"We also want to reduce panic," Beagle said. One of the biggest problems the post will face is "missing information and bad information." While bad or misleading information will spread quickly it can take time for the right information to catch up, if at all. "So information has to be right and accurate, which is why we're doing what we are doing now."

"We here at Fort Jackson instituted extreme protocols well before we were ordered to do so," Beagle added. "We saw it coming and didn't need to be told what to do."

Installation leadership cancelled the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment's Family Day activities March 11 and modified the graduation scheduled for March 12 in response to potential COVID-19 cases in communities near Fort Jackson. The modifications include Families having between 1 -1  1/2 hours with their Soldier after graduation. Families transporting their Soldier to Advanced Individual Training may receive a pass to pick up their Soldier in the battalion area. Soldiers will not be able to travel with Family members to AIT after this week's graduation.

"We are America's Army and our bond with the public is trust," Beagle said in a statement released March 9. "While these changes disrupt the plans many people have made, I believe that the Family and friends of our graduating Soldiers trust that we do not make these decisions lightly and only implement the precautions outlined as prudent decisions designed to protect our Army Team and further prevent opportunities to introduce or spread COVID-19 exposure."

The fort's prevention efforts also include an order by the post commander to not shake hands but instead use a n elbow bump as a greeting. Educational posters have been spread around post to reinforce the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's policy of prevention through hygiene.

Prevention and detection of the virus are important because it's hard to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19, said Col. Paul O. Kwon, Moncrief Army Hospital Clinic's chief of preventative medicine during the March 5 town hall.

In order to detect the virus before it enters the post, all recruits arriving at the Military Entry Processing Station are screened whether or not they train on Fort Jackson. Those trainees arriving at the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) are screened again. These screenings are in addition to those recruits receive at recruiting stations across the country.

Fort Jackson also has test kits, Kwon said. It can take up to two weeks for results to get back.

If you are sick, whether you have a fever, cough, have been in close contact with a known coronavirus patient, or live in or are traveling to an area that is high risk "definitely come see us," Kwon said.

Containment of the virus is difficult, post officials said, because much of it is out of its control.

Fort Jackson has quarantine plans and called on those who are sick to isolate themselves.

If you are sick, stay at home, they said.