The Army on Monday paused sending new recruits to basic training for at least two weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“In concert with guidance from the Department of the Army, along with expert assessments from the COVID-19 threat, decisions have been made to pause the shipment of trainees to basic combat training,” U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command head Gen. Paul Funk told reporters at the Pentagon.
Funk added that the pause is “conditions based” and will not affect those already in basic training.
The new rules also will not affect sending trainees to advanced individual training once they graduate basic.
The Army in March closed its recruitment stations and switched to virtual recruiting, most of it done on social media, in order to “protect our soldiers and also protect the new recruits” from the coronavirus, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said at the time.
The service also altered basic training with new procedures to prevent any recruit from bringing the virus into the military. Those included an initial screening in the recruit’s home state, another screening at the military entrance processing centers and a third once they were moved to initial training facilities with a quarantine before training begins.
As of Monday morning, there are 2,346 confirmed coronavirus cases across the military, including 1,435 service members — 334 of whom are in the Army — 398 civilians, 336 family members and 177 contractors.
Funk said the timing was ideal to put a hold on the new trainees, as “April and May are our lowest-geshipping months anyway. . . .We’re in a good spot in the Army in terms of getting the conditions set to really be ready for the summer surge.”
The pause “will allow leaders to focus on setting conditions so movement can be conducted in a safer manner in the future,” he said.
The Army, which has four basic training locations at Fort Jackson, S.C.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Sill, Okla.; and Fort Benning, Ga., is not the first service to put a hold on shipping to basic training.
The Marine Corps in late March announced it would temporarily pause sending new recruits to its Parris Island, S.C., training installation.
The training holds come as Pentagon leadership has been scrutinized in recent weeks over whether it is doing enough to protect service members from the coronavirus, with questions raised over whether the military is placing too much emphasis on remaining postured for a potential war at the expense of troops’ health.