FORT POLK, La. — As the Army moves forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Army leaders have chosen the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk — the Army’s crucible combat training center for Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and Security Force Assistance Brigades — to develop a game plan that allows for the resumption of unit training while at the same time affording protection for Soldiers, civilians, contractors and Family members.
Soldiers with the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, began arriving at Alexandria International Airport’s Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group (ADACG) May 26, and will continue arriving daily through early June to participate in Rotation 20-08.
Joining the Fort Carson Soldiers is the 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment (Michigan Army National Guard), and elements of the Security Force Assistance Command from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Maj. David Cook, JRTC Sustainment Operations Center, said as each element arrives at Alexandria, the Soldiers go through screening by a team of JRTC and Fort Polk medical personnel, led by Lt. Col. Brian Adams, deputy commander for Clinical Services at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, and Sgt. 1st Class Teresa Bocanegra, NCOIC of BJACH ob/gyn and clinical services.
“We have a doc here and medics, and we take the incoming Soldiers’ temperatures and have a series of questions we ask to make sure there hasn’t been anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 or taken any type of medication that would reduce their temperature,” Cook said. “Then we give them an in-brief before they come onto JRTC to make sure they understand we’re protecting our community and the Soldiers on Fort Polk.”
Cook said about 200 advance party Soldiers were processed through the ADACG on May 26. He said one or two flights a day are expected until the entire unit has arrived.
Bocanegra said she and Adams were on hand to ensure screening was done correctly and determine if any Soldiers needed further testing.
“We here to control the medical aspect of their arrival,” she said.
Bocanegra said that because of precautions that have been taken before the Soldiers left their home stations, she doesn’t see a problem with anyone with COVID-19 showing up at the ADACG.
“They’ve been tested and quarantined and there should be no issues with someone slipping through,” she said.
Bocanegra said there is always the possibility that a Soldier could develop symptoms en route to JRTC.
“But that’s why we are here,” she said. “If they are positive, we’ll catch them. It’s good to have the testing on both ends because we don’t want outside entities contaminating the local populace.”
By taking such proactive steps, Bocanegra said not only does it help reduce the risk of COVID-19 being spread on JRTC, it’s also encouraging for the Families of those Soldiers who have made the trip south.
“This lets them know that we’re taking care of their Soldiers and we’re not going to send them back home with the coronavirus,” she said. “It’s also comforting to our local Soldiers and Families, letting them know we’re not going to allow the virus to be brought on Fort Polk.”
As the Soldiers exited their bus or aircraft, they lined up wearing masks and maintaining social distancing (6 feet). They were then called in to the ADACG where their temperatures were taken, medical questions asked and ID cards checked by 4th SFAB S-1 personnel. Following the in-brief, the Soldiers were transported by bus to JRTC’s North Fort Polk where they were assigned barracks rooms.
On May 27, advance party Soldiers began receiving equipment and vehicles at the Control Receiving and Shipping Point (CRSP) on North Fort Polk. Transport trucks brought the vehicles from Fort Carson, and 4th SFAB Soldiers moved them to a motor pool.
Also on May 27, Maj. Sarah Jones, JRTC SOC, held a Reception, Staging, Onward-movement and Integration (RSOI) rehearsal at North Fort Polk for the 4th SFAB. Jones explained the 4th SFAB’s projected movements as they began participation in Rotation 20-08.