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'Protective Bubble' Erected Around Recruit Training

July 7, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Initial training for Navy and Marine Corps recruits is continuing, as the services have adapted to keep the training pipeline open while maintaining safety measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. William F. Mullen, commanding general of Marine Corps Training and Education Command and Navy Rear Adm. Milton J. Sands, commander of Naval Service Training Command, briefed reporters at the Pentagon by telephone today.

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Officials at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and MCRD San Diego in California are emphasizing social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment, reinforcing hygiene measures, imposing a 14-day restriction of movement on recruits prior to training, and testing recruits for COVID-19, Mullen said.

Though the semiannual physical fitness test has been waived across the Marine Corps, it is not being waived at the recruit depots or for formal learning centers where the test is part of the program of instruction and a graduation requirement, he added.

A Marine with a rifle. Part of an obstacle course is in the background.
Obstacle Course
Recruit Deyraliz Perezgines completes an obstacle course during the Crucible at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Feb. 22, 2020. The Crucible is a 54-hour culminating event that requires recruits to work as a team and overcome challenges in order to earn the title Marine.
Photo By: Marine Corps Warrant Officer Bobby J. Yarbrough
VIRIN: 190222-M-DE426-207C

MCRD San Diego is limiting the number of recruits per company to 325, and Parris Island is limiting the number to 454 for men and 120 for women due to the different styles of barracks, he noted.

The 10 days of leave that Marines normally take after graduation has been canceled, he said, allowing the Marine Corps to control the transportation method to the School of Infantry for their follow-on training.

Because about 52% of military occupational specialty schools are at other service locations, these protective measures were put into place to reassure the other services, Mullen said.

A Marine recruit prepares to fire a rifle.
Recruit Training
Recruit Jonathan Kelly with Platoon 2062, Fox Company, trains at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 2, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Hageali
VIRIN: 190702-M-IG436-0076C

Particular attention is being paid to areas of high congregation where exposure is the riskiest, such as mess halls, chapels, physical fitness locations and classrooms, he said.

Testing at military processing stations and reception battalions and the use of quarantine and isolation are resulting in a "protective bubble," Mullen said, adding that recruits who test positive for COVID-19 are moved to a single room and quarantined.

Sands mentioned similar COVID-19 mitigation efforts for the Navy.

Navy recruits march in formation.
March Formation
Navy recruits march in formation at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Ill., May 14, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Amy Johnson
VIRIN: 200514-N-NO492-1042C

At Naval Service Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, the Navy's only enlisted boot camp, the service is on track to meet the Navy's goal of 40,800 recruits for this fiscal year. Some 6,700 recruits are in basic training, and 1,200 new recruits are shipped each week, he said.

Training has not been degraded, the admiral said, noting that every sailor continues to receive training in the five basic competencies: firefighting, damage control, watch standing, seamanship and small-arms handling and marksmanship. Sailors train as a team and are inculcated with the Navy's core values, he said

A Marine swims in a pool.
Swim Qualification
A Marine recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, participates in a standard swim qualification at the swim tank at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Feb. 22, 2016.
Photo By: Michael T. Kaneshige, Marines
VIRIN: 160222-M-CP542-001

Sands added that the Navy Officer Training Command in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, have implimented similar requirements as those in place at the enlisted training sites.