Feature   Defense News

Naval Medical Research Center Supports Marine Recruits During Pandemic

June 9, 2020

Naval Medical Research Center, or NMRC, has been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 from the start and continues to provide scientific support to warfighters with the COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines, a study known as CHARM.

CHARM began May 4 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina.

Marines wearing blue scrubs and face masks take the temperature of a new enlisted woman, who is dressed in civilian clothes.
Temperature Check
A poolee is medically screened at The Citadel, a public military college temporarily used to stage poolees for a 14-day observation period in Charleston, S.C., May 4, 2020. The Citadel will facilitate the continuation of the Marine Corps’ mission of making Marines while enhancing staging capabilities for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in response to COVID-19.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Rebecca Floto
VIRIN: 200504-M-IJ860-1074

Navy Cmdr. Carl Goforth, a nurse scientist at NMRC and associate investigator for the CHARM study, has been at the forefront of determining how COVID-19 affects large, at-risk training environments, such as Marine Corps recruit training. The primary focus of the research, she said, is to maintain maximum health while meeting graduation standards and requirements for recruits during the pandemic.

Goforth and the CHARM field research team, led by Navy Cmdr. Andrew Letizia, the NMRC's deputy director for infectious diseases, initiated a prospective study for recruits who will stand on the famed yellow footprints at Parris Island. The research team, which also includes three clinical laboratory officers and several hospital corpsmen, is mission-focused to support one of the Marine Corps' fundamental operations: making Marines.

Marine Corps officer wearing a face mask speaks with young Marines.
Citadel Visit
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James F. Glynn, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., visits The Citadel, a public military college temporarily used to stage poolees for a 14-day observation period in Charleston, S.C., May 5, 2020. The Citadel will facilitate the continuation of the Marine Corps’ mission of making Marines while enhancing staging capabilities for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in response to COVID-19.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Rebecca Floto
VIRIN: 200505-M-IJ860-2007

The CHARM research team is boosting the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit Parris Island with unique research expertise to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 at the recruit depot and return recruits to training as quickly and safely as possible.

Specifically, the CHARM study addresses scientific questions that will assist in increasing medical readiness by creating the right scientific approach to answer those questions, deploying the field laboratory infrastructure, ethically and appropriately enrolling volunteer participants, safely obtaining and processing samples and sharing data to meet the mission.

The CHARM study seeks to identify those who are infected with COVID-19 even if they have few or no symptoms as well measure weekly antibody production for those with more severe symptoms. This allows for the immediate implementation of public health measures to limit the spread of the infection.

Marines wearing masks stand in a dormitory courtyard.
Preparing Recruits
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James F. Glynn, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., visits The Citadel, a public military college temporarily used to stage poolees for a 14-day observation period in Charleston, S.C., May 5, 2020. The Citadel will facilitate the continuation of the Marine Corps’ mission of making Marines while enhancing staging capabilities for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in response to COVID-19.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Rebecca Floto
VIRIN: 200505-M-IJ860-2002

The study should also provide a better understanding of the basic immune response of the body in different people to assess why some individuals get very sick while others do not realize they are infected. Finally, the study looks to identify a measurable indicator, or ''immunity passport,'' that can be calculated to safely return recruits and Marines back to the fight even if they are re-exposed to the infection.

Goforth is the researcher responsible for explaining the study to potential participants and ensuring they have full understanding when they consent to participate, collecting biological specimens, conducting data analysis and assisting with field laboratory operations.

As of May 10, the CHARM study had enrolled more than 450 volunteer participants and was at the forefront of all Defense Department's recruit training efforts to study COVID-19 in this unique environment while providing an immediate positive impact on force health protection.

(Courtesy of the Naval Medical Research Center.)