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Installations Focus on Safety Amid Pandemic

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Massachusetts National Guard
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Army’s installation commanders are focused on safety as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis—a challenge that does not have a “one-size-fits-all solution,” a top general said.  

“We’re dug in but continuing to fight,” Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commanding general of Army Installation Management Command, said during a virtual media roundtable on April 15.

Gabram’s advice to installation commanders: “Protect yourself so you can protect the force and the force can protect the nation.”

In early March, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gave installation commanders authority to implement measures on-post to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Over the past several weeks, installations in the U.S. and abroad have put several controls in place—such as telework, hands-free ID card checks, reduced access points, and reduced or suspended nonessential services—to protect personnel and families. 

“We’re treating this as a combat operation in IMCOM,” Gabram said, adding that the “conditions-based” measures vary by location.

Since April 5, all personnel, family members and other individuals on an installation are required to wear cloth face coverings or masks when they can’t maintain 6 feet of space from others in public areas or work centers, according to a Defense Department memo. 

While most barbershops on installations are closed, those that remain open are taking precautions, such as cleaning, protective equipment and distancing chairs, Gabram said.

“I feel confident that our senior commanders are doing the right thing, because safety is No. 1,” Gabram said. “This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.”

As the Army remains under a stop movement order, senior leaders are thinking about how and when to return to “business as usual”—and they’re aware of the risks of doing it too soon, Gabram said.

“I believe this is going to be a conditions-based road to recovery,” Gabram said, adding that IMCOM headquarters and the Army are working on a gradual return to business for installations. “The situation is changing daily.”