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Army Pushing to Restart Collective Training

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U.S. Army
Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Army continues to implement safety measures across the force as it pushes toward a return to collective training amid the COVID-19 pandemic, senior leaders said April 30.

“We’re looking at the long game. We’re not waiting for COVID-19 to go away,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said during a press briefing. “We’re putting the right procedures in place so we can protect the force while we train in a COVID-19 environment.” 

As the virus spread across the country, the military was forced to restrict travel, cancel exercises, slow training and even stop the deployment and redeployment of some troops overseas. But the Army must find a way to continue training, and the service has been creating what leaders call “safety bubbles” to protect soldiers without sacrificing the mission.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he was encouraged by the risk-mitigation measures he saw during a recent visit to Fort Benning, Georgia.

“The Army continues to need a manned and ready force, and we will continue to take the necessary precautions to protect the force and will enable commanders the flexibility to make conditions-based decisions,” he said, adding that the Army has submitted to Defense Secretary Mark Esper a risk-mitigation framework to safely return to training and operations.

The safety measures put in place at the Army’s initial entry training installations—screening, testing, controlled monitoring and tactical dispersion—are working, McConville said. Those same measures are now being applied at installations across the Army and at the combat training centers, he said.

“Getting back to collective training is crucial, but we need to make sure we have the right measures in place first,” he said. “Commanders at all echelons are assessing risk on a daily basis. It’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

The world is going to “live in this COVID-19 environment for a while,” McConville said, so the Army must be proactive. “We can’t telecommute to combat,” he said.

McCarthy agreed, adding that the Army has continued to move soldiers “from every corner of the planet” while conducting operations overseas and supporting COVID-19 response efforts at home.

“We are finding our way to lead through this,” he said, adding, “we remain prepared, anywhere, anytime, when the country needs us.”