To Fort Rucker Soldiers, Civilians, Families and the Community:
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 16, 2020) — As our nation responds to the coronavirus pandemic, it is imperative we continue to communicate effectively to provide the most accurate and timely information to all of our service members, civilians, families and community partners. CSM Hauke and I fully appreciate that there is a level of uncertainty and concern across our community, and we are working with leadership across Fort Rucker to alleviate this to the greatest extent possible. We will continue to leverage all of our communications platforms to address these concerns. Today, we will conduct a virtual Town Hall on our official USAACE and Fort Rucker Facebook page at 5:00 p.m. to provide the community an update and answer questions.
First and foremost, there are still no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Fort Rucker, and we greatly appreciate all of your collective efforts to safeguard our community thus far. If this status changes, we will provide an immediate update.
Our top priority is protecting the force here at Fort Rucker and maintaining our mission readiness, while also ensuring the health and safety of all our Soldiers, family members and civilian workforce, as well as working together with our partners in the Wiregrass community.
It will require some changes to how we do business and go about our daily lives, but we will continue to train and maintain the highest levels of force protection and readiness here at Fort Rucker. We ask the Fort Rucker Team to please have flexibility and patience as we continue to reevaluate the situation and make decisions regarding the welfare of all on our installation.
We are currently at Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level Alpha on Fort Rucker. HPCON Alpha is “limited community transmission beginning.” This covers all of the actions of HPCON Routine which are: Take everyday actions to stop the spread of germs:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue, then throw it in the trash; cough/sneeze into your elbow if tissues are unavailable.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Ensure all immunizations are up to date, including your seasonal flu shot.
- Stay home if you are sick, and avoid close contact with Family members and pets.
- Create an emergency preparedness kit.
- Create a pet disaster preparedness kit.
HPCON Alpha adds the following actions:
- Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you are sick, call your medical provider for instructions on receiving care before going to the clinic
- Stay informed by routinely checking reliable sources of information such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local public health agencies.
We continue to implement Center for Disease Control COVID-19 preventative measures and medical screening protocols. We are taking the following precautionary measures:
- Child Development Center closure beginning Wednesday 18 March 2020 except for force providers
- In accordance with recent CDC guidance, large gatherings will be avoided
- MWR facilities, businesses, and all recreation programs will close 17 March 2020 until further notice, to include: all MWR gym facilities, SKIES, the library, the Landing, the bowling alley, and ACS’s outreach programs.
We ask that all of our personnel and family members protect themselves and those around them by employing protective measures, including practicing good hand washing, social distancing, and avoiding hand shaking, wiping down commonly-used surfaces, and taking appropriate actions if feeling sick. These measures can dramatically decrease the risk of infection and slow the spread of COVID-19.
We recognize that this is a very dynamic situation and that conditions will continue to change. We continue to make risk-based decisions, informed by health experts, senior leaders, and government leaders from the local to national level. We continue to strive to actively communicate those decisions through the chain of command. Accordingly, we will also maximize the use of Fort Rucker social media platforms to flatten communications and provide timely information to our Soldiers, civilians, and families.
The following information provides an update on some of the most significant decisions and policy changes we have or will be implementing. We acknowledge these topics are not all- inclusive, and I encourage you to submit questions through your chain of command. We will answer them as quickly as possible as well as potentially make more changes or updates.
Child Development Centers (CDCs)
Effective Wednesday, 18 March 2020, Child Development Center remains open only to support our force providers that fall under the Directorate of Public Safety, which include our gate guards, police and fire department and our healthcare providers at Lyster Army Health Clinic. Tactical Officers, Drill Sergeants, and FLATIRON aircrew members are included. Exceptions to this policy requires chain of command and commanding general approval. If local conditions or the Health Protection Condition level changes, we will reassess this decision.
Quarantine and Isolation Requirements
Quarantine vs. Isolation. There is still confusion with the difference between quarantine and isolation. As a reminder:
- Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who have potentially been exposed to a communicable disease, to see if they become sick.
- Isolation is the physical segregation for persons who have the symptoms of, or a confirmed diagnosis of, an infectious disease.
If you have returned from outside the Continental United States or high-risk area, you will be quarantined for a period of 14 days. Fort Rucker has set up a reception facility where you will be evaluated on whether there is requirement for quarantine.
Fort Rucker is reviewing our telework agreements and will assess and provide guidance for eligible telework personnel in the next few days.
It is imperative that we maintain the greatest level of readiness, while taking common sense precautions against the spread of COVID-19. Commanders at echelon will continue with current training plans. At this time, units will continue to execute daily accountability formations in conjunction with scheduled physical training. We have suspended all combatives training until further notice.
To reduce risk to the force and maintain readiness, effective 17 March 2020, Fort Rucker will close all MWR fitness centers.
Fort Rucker Restaurants
We are implementing only takeout options within the Fort Rucker restaurants to minimize the risk in each facility.
Exchanges and Commissaries
Exchanges and Commissaries will remain open. They will increase cleaning standards and are reviewing operating processes, hours of operation, and access policies (e.g., number of shoppers in the store at any point in time and/or numbers/quantities of items allowed for purchase per individual) to protect our Fort Rucker community. Avoid panic purchasing to ensure that everyone eligible to shop at either location has equal access to essential items.
Religious services will continue and any changes to format or locations will be announced.
Legal and Tax Services
The Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA) will curtail certain client based legal and tax services. Please consult guidance published by the OSJA.
In closing, we will take necessary precautions to maintain readiness and protect our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians here at Fort Rucker. We will make risk-informed decisions, based on facts and analysis. The situation will continue to change and we will make the appropriate adjustments and keep you informed. Going forward, we will focus on what we CAN do. I am confident that we will find ways to thrive in adversity. CSM Hauke and I are honored to be on your team and together we will continue to be mission ready and protect Fort Rucker and work with our partners in the Wiregrass community!
David J. Francis
Major General, U.S. Army
Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker