FORT STEWART, Ga. — In spite of logistic difficulties due to COVID-19, the Marne Reception Center on Fort Stewart has continued to receive incoming Soldiers from advanced individual training.
The MRC, also known by its moniker, Gateway to the Rock, helps Soldiers in process the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield community.
The MRC’s senior enlisted leader, 1st Sgt. Tara Charles, said her staff has maintained operations by taking precautions in accordance with COVID-19 risk mitigation guidelines, but the process for the MRC remains much the same.
“The first step in the process is that the Soldiers’ AITs contact us and tell us where they’re coming from, how they’re coming and when,” Charles said.
Soldiers arriving from far-away locations travel by air, like those who recently arrived from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, on May 13. The Soldiers arrived by aircraft to Truscott Air Terminal at Hunter, and were then brought to the MRC on Fort Stewart by bus.
Other Soldiers who arrive from regionally-close locations travel to the MRC by bus, like the recent group of Soldiers from Fort Gordon who arrived on May 15.
Spc. Jake Heald, a Soldier assigned to MRC, said precautions are taken throughout the transition period, and that the new Soldiers had to be screened for COVID-19 before exiting the aircraft and bus.
“Soldiers are quarantined for 14 days prior to arriving, so they arrive on a ‘clean’ flight,” Heald said.
According to leaders at the MRC, Soldiers who don’t arrive on clean flights are quarantined in the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team’s logistics support area for 14 days.
Soldiers who already endured 14 days of quarantine and passed COVID-19 symptoms screening checks at the MRC download their bags from the bus and have their orders and leave forms checked. The next step is issuing the Soldiers a barracks room and providing briefs on the procedures of in-processing.
Charles said that due to the COVID-19 response the length of stay at the MRC for in-processing has been reduced from seven days to four days, so Soldiers can be shipped to their units quicker.
Soldiers have their finances processed on the first day, their medical and dental records updated on the second day, and they are issued equipment by the Central Issue Facility on the third day. The fourth day is when Soldiers are shipped to their units.
Throughout the process, the MRC staff ensures Soldiers maintain social distancing and are advised on travel restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19.
According to Charles, the MRC goes a step beyond expectations at times, because it is prepared to help incoming Soldiers who have special needs, such as providing housing for a Soldier and their Family who may be struggling with financial issues. She said this helps ease the burden for Soldiers as they make their transition to becoming a Dogface Soldier.
In addition to responding to COVID-19, Soldiers assigned to the MRC have demonstrated their ability to adapt to change as the unit has conducted a command structure change earlier this year when it transitioned from under the 3rd Infantry Division’s Special Troops Battalion to under the command of 3rd ID’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.
In addition to the organizational change, the command team at the MRC is new as well, with Charles and the MRC’s new commander, Capt. Calvin Fortune, recently taking over from the outgoing command team, Capt. David Downing and 1st Sgt. Gene Fisher.
Many Soldiers agree that it is the Soldiers to their left and right who help when response, transition and change need to occur.
“I figured things would be rushed and that COVID may change some things,” said Pvt. Curtis Brooks, an in-processing Soldier newly assigned to 3rd ID. “But having friends in the Military helped ease some of the anxiety and manage my expectations a bit.”