Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford “Beags” Beagle Jr., and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah Gan addressed the post’s reopening of installation services and remaining unified during trying times of pandemic and civil unrest during a bi-weekly virtual town hall.
“I’m not going to call it the elephant in the room, but some of you know that we had one of our own cadre members put out something very inflammatory, very racially based on social media” Beagle said. “I will tell you that everybody across our formation, regardless of branch of service, take the same oath and adhere to the same values. But you will have a small amount, that for whatever reason, may not be completely absorbed in that one person and that is unfortunate.”
As protesting continues across the nation, a Fort Jackson cadre member posted disparaging remarks against the current movement to their social media that resulted in numerous phone calls and emails to installation leadership. Beagle explained he was aware of the remarks and ensured viewers an investigation is underway. He also stated that in keeping with a promise made of transparency, he would talk about the outcome of the investigation once concluded.
“One thing we promised you from the beginning is to be transparent with you,” Beagle reiterated. “One thing we cannot break with the public is our trust. That is the one thing that we have between us and the public that we serve. I want to remind the public that those who wear the uniform … swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution and the values embedded within it. That oath never expires.”
Beagle and Gan were also joined by Col. John “Wes” Hankins Fort Jackson garrison commander who announced the reopening of installation services.
“Your willingness to exercise personal self-discipline, comply with post policies and adapt to the very real and changing conditions have been what has enabled us to start dialing back up some of the services we are offering on Fort Jackson,” Hankins said. “So what will change over the next 14 days?”
Beginning June 8, retirees and beneficiaries are now allowed to access the installation an additional day. Post access is now Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Veteran Health Identification Card holders and cyclists possessing Defense Biometric Identification System cards may access the installation those days as well.
“We are also expanding food service venues to include outdoor seating for carry-out meals,” Hankins said. “We encourage you to get out.”
All food service facilities that have patio seating reopened tables to the public June 8 to enjoy carry out meals. Sgt. Suds Car Wash also opened June 8. The Auto Craft Shop will open June 11 and some religious services will return to the Main Post and Daniel Circle chapels later in the month.
While services begin to reopen and expand to community members, leadership reminded viewers that social distancing measures and cloth face coverings would remain in effect.
Hankins also reminded parents of school aged children to complete re-registration for Pierce Terrace and C.C. Pinckney Elementary students for the 2020-2021 school year. The final date to register students for the upcoming year has been moved to June 22 due to the pandemic. Parents can register at www.dodea.edu/DORS.
“If you have logon or password challenges, please contact your school,” Hankins said.
C.C. Pinckney Elementary can be reached at (803) 782-1772 and Pierce Terrace Elementary can be reached at (803) 787-6815 for password and logon issues.
Beagle announced General Order #2 for the installation that places restrictions on social gatherings and unauthorized access or entry into Soldier barracks. The order also eased travel restrictions to 210 miles for Soldiers and their Family members .
“Because of how well we have done to date, I have extended the radius,” Beagle said. “What I ask of our Family members is to just be smart. Just because it’s warm and nice outside, COVID didn’t go away. It’s still looming in our environment, you can’t see it, but it’s still there.”
Beagle also explained that Atlanta remains off-limits to Soldiers. The number of COVID-19 positive residents remains high in the city and Beagle said Soldiers and their Family members need to remain outside of the city as part of health and safety measures.
The town hall came to a close with the “Fast 40” segment where viewers can ask questions directly to installation leadership and receive replies. The top question of the segment asked if Family Day and publicly attended graduation ceremonies would resume. Beagle and Gan weighed in together.
“Will you be able to attend graduation in July? No. Will you be able to attend graduation in August? No,” Beagle said candidly. “The conditions are not set yet, so essentially throughout the summer we will not have a live graduation, they will all be virtually livestreamed to you.”
“If we executed graduations like we did prior to the COVID (pandemic), we would have 5,000-7000 Family members come to Fort Jackson. We have this thing we call the ‘safe bubble’ for trainees, after they have been tested their first two weeks on Fort Jackson, they are entered into that safe bubble,” Gan said. “We go above and beyond in keeping them safe. We also have due diligence to keep our local community safe off the instillation as well. Having 5,000-7,000 Family members travel from all parts of the world is putting too many people in danger.”
Beagle said he would reevaluate the decision towards the end of the summer to determine if environmental conditions are right for the installation and local community to return to public graduations and Family Day activities.