FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- People who refuse to wear face coverings in Fort Rucker facilities run the risk of receiving a one-year bar from the installation.
The risk to the health of the overall community posed by people who can’t follow the directive outlined in General Order No. 3 is just too high to not respond, according to Col. Whitney B. Gardner, Fort Rucker garrison commander.
GO 3 was issued by Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, June 11 to help the installation protect its people, its mission and the surrounding communities.
Paragraph 6.d.3 of the order states that people need to “wear a face covering in any on- or off-post facility which requires a face covering regardless of physical separation from other personnel." GO3 can be viewed at here.
Gardner said people who live and work on post follow the rules almost without fail. The problem arises when a small minority of visitors to Fort Rucker drop by on weekends or evenings to shop at the commissary or U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities, or to make use of Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities and then refuse to wear a mask when asked to by employees at those facilities.
“Most people just forget their masks in their cars, and then go get them without a problem when it is mentioned to them,” he said. “But there are a few who refuse to follow the rules, and if they refuse to protect themselves and protect others, they are basically forfeiting their right to come onto the installation. We view those people as a risk.”
As a military installation, people who come onto Fort Rucker are required to follow the rules, regulations and directives in place at any given time, whether they agree with them or not, Gardner added.
“They may feel they’re entitled to not wear a mask, but, ultimately, if they refuse to follow the directive, they are giving up their entitlement to enter the installation as they are posing a risk to those around them,” he said.
Those who refuse to wear a face covering can expect the military police to visit them, and to receive a bar letter, which will be forwarded through the system to Gardner for his final decision on whether or not to issue an official bar for a year.
“Really, if you have to ask, just wear a mask,” he said about people questioning if they should wear a face covering in a certain on-post facility. “You should have one anyway if you’re coming on post. At this point in time, there are really no facilities or buildings on post where a mask is not required – just generally assume that if you are entering a building you don’t normally work in or you aren’t familiar with, you should have a mask on.”
Additionally, Fort Rucker stood up Soldier courtesy patrols June 15 to roam all over post to remind people of the rules in GO 3 and the need to follow them, along with helping to diffuse any issues or problems that may arise, Gardner said.
“They’re patrolling the commissary and post exchange facilities, along with MWR facilities, including the lakes, and that’s going to help us take some of the pressure off of our employees,” he said. “We also depend on people to police each other up. If Soldiers see someone not doing the right things in a facility, they need to help the employees straighten things out. We don’t want people to be jerks about it, but people do need to realize it is a serious risk when people refuse to follow the rules.”