After a two-week pause, the Army resumed shipping recruits to training centers last week and for those arriving to Fort Leonard Wood, the schedule looks a little different than before.
The 10-week, modified Basic Combat Training – referred to as two-plus-eight due to a built-in initial two-week controlled-monitoring phase – allows the Army’s newest Soldiers to learn all the same skills, but with COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place.
Before training begins, all recruits are first screened and tested for COVID-19 at the Harper In-processing Screening Clinic.
“Each trainee has his or her temperature checked and are asked if they have any symptoms or have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last two weeks,” said Maj. Amy Rice, Fort Leonard Wood Public Health Emergency Officer. “Whether or not they report symptoms, all trainees are also tested for COVID-19 with a nasal swab when they arrive.”
Rice said trainees who test positive for the virus, show COVID-19 symptoms or have had close contact with the virus within two weeks are separated and placed into isolation or quarantine barracks.
She added that the Preventive Medicine Division completes contact tracing for all trainees who test positive for the virus.
“During this investigation, close contacts will be identified and appropriately placed in isolation or quarantine, depending on if they have symptoms or not,” she said.
After screening, recruits without recent contact or symptoms are transported to their training units via sterilized buses to begin the two-week controlled-monitoring phase.
According to Maj. Zebulon Pike, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment executive officer, every day during those two weeks begins with a health screening. Both trainees and drill sergeants wear masks and the barracks are separated to minimize foot traffic in all areas of the building.
“We will continue with the controlled-monitoring phase to minimize potential cross-contamination, keeping our new trainees in platoon-sized bays, with platoon integrity throughout the phase,” he said.
Training taking place during the first two weeks includes much of the academic training curriculum.
“We are facilitating increased focus on customs and courtesies, ethics, law of land warfare, wear and appearance of the uniform, physical readiness training philosophy, recovery and fueling for performance,” Pike said. “No time ever goes to waste here. The end result is always to have a better prepared and more capable Soldier that immediately makes a positive impact to their first unit of assignment.”
After the two-week period of platoon integrity, the trainees will go to the 43rd Adjutant General Reception Battalion for three days and receive a general orientation that includes ID card issue, dental and vision exams, and uniform issue. This helps protect the workforce at the Reception Battalion and reduces risk to all involved during reception activities, according to officials.
Pike said the remaining eight weeks of BCT look almost identical to the way it did before – complete with, among other things, road and formation marching; rifle and advanced weapons marksmanship and maneuvering techniques; physical-fitness training; obstacle courses and rappelling; Chemical, Radioactive, Biological and Nuclear readiness training; and land navigation.
“We will train and transition America’s sons and daughters into America’s future warfighters,” Pike said, “and we will make the most of the time we are given.”
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, said during a recent virtual town hall that this adjusted training environment is still producing the world’s finest Soldiers while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19 exposure.
“All training environments across post are adjusted for social distancing and protective measures,” she said. “There is probably no safer place for your loved one right now than Basic Combat Training in the U.S. Army.”