Although graduations are still not open to the public and guests are only allowed under restricted conditions, Fort Sill will continue to operate as a training facility for the time being.
In an online town hall meeting-style livestream on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, commanding general at Fort Sill, said the post will continue its basic training and advanced individual training, even if life is not “business as usual” at Fort Sill. Kamper also answered questions from the public regarding COVID-19.
Kamper said he and fellow commanding officers are taking all the CDC-issued precautions designed to slow the spread of the virus. That is why there are still no immediate plans to lift the suspension on guest attendance at graduations. Kamper said there are no plans on limiting access to the post.
In both basic training and advanced individual training (AIT), trainees are in an “isolated or semi-isolated environment” as much as possible. Fort Sill is conducting screenings of trainees at the MEPS station. If anyone has traveled through a “level 3 country” (nations where the virus is most rampant), has fever or exhibits cough or flu-like symptoms, they are quarantined for 14 days.
Kamper said that 35 people on post have been tested for COVID-19, though only nine tests have been completed, all of them negative. Kamper said he expects to get more results back in the course of the next couple of days.
Once in training, the classes are about half the size of normal and there is “pretty limited contact”, Kamper said. And while the basic trainees are able to be kept a safe distance from one another, Kamper said it’s not always possible for the AIT trainees to stay six feet apart at all times.
“We will not be able to completely distance the training because of the nature of the training,” Kamper said. “But we are taking the social distancing measures seriously. Spacing is already happening on buses and we are trying to reduce the crowding in the dining hall, and that should be addressed in the next few days.”
The commissary and post exchange are still open. The fitness center is still open, though only to those with DoD cards. Kamper said gyms are “viewed as essential” to the training of soldiers, though each soldier has been instructed to practice social distancing and thoroughly wipe down all equipment after use.
When asked about the status of child development centers, Kamper said they are being left open, though the eventual plan is to limit attendance to children of drill sergeants, instructors and others involved in supporting basic training and AIT. When at a center this week, Kamper said proper precautions were being taken, as he walked through a class during nap time, and saw all the children were more than six feet apart.
Operational deployments are still occurring, with meticulous precautions being taken. Kamper pointed to the troops who are currently in South Korea, one of the “level 3 countries.” Kamper said the number of cases reported from the military in Korea, relative to the number of cases in America, is actually fairly small, saying, “I think people are just as safe in South Korea as they are here.”