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FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Necessity is the mother of invention, and the COVID-19 pandemic created the need to in and out process Soldiers at Fort Rucker in the safest manner possible to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

The answer, as has been the case with so much in dealing with COVID-19, was to move as many of the steps in the processes as possible into the virtual world, according to Fort Rucker Directorate of Human Resources officials.

The move to virtual in and out processing began Aug. 5 and has largely met the goals of decreasing foot traffic across the installation to help limit people’s exposure to other people while still getting Soldiers processed effectively, said Omar Allen, lead human resources assistant with the DHR Military Personnel Division Personnel Management Branch.

All newly arriving Soldiers report to Bldg. 315 upon arrival, he said. The process includes unit S1 personnel gathering all of the Soldier’s documents, such as PCS orders, amendments, and DA Forms 31 to scan to the MPD.

“MPD arrives the Soldier to Fort Rucker, prepares in-processing documents, and scans in-processing packets back to the S-1 for distribution to Soldiers,” Allen said. “In-processing documents identify activities that can be in-processed virtually versus those that require an appointment. Once the Soldier completes in processing, S1 scans the in-processing packet back to MPD for a final review and completion stamp.”

Out processing uses same process for Soldiers to complete the DA Form 137-2, Installation Clearing Record, he said, adding that other Army installations are developing virtual in- and out-processing procedures unique to the requirements of their locations.

Feedback on the process has been positive, but there have been challenges to work through – challenges the DHR staff and Fort Rucker units have worked through successfully,

“Implementing new processes are often met with major concerns; however, in a collaborative environment, the MPD works jointly with the brigades and the tenants units to establish and solidify the virtual installation in- and out-processing system,” Allen said.

The new process will continue for as long as leadership deems it necessary to protect Soldiers and the Fort Rucker community, but officials are also looking at aspects of the system that can become a permanent part of in and out processing, he said.

While face-to-face contact is minimal with the new system, that doesn’t mean customer service is taking a backseat, Allen said.

“The most important thing Soldiers should know is that although MPD personnel will not physically see them, we are here to support them 100 percent,” he said. “The S1 is equipped to assist service members with obtaining in and out processing documents, and ensuring completion in a timely manner.

“As this process is in its infancy, we ask all involved to exercise tactical patience to ensure that each service member receives the support they need to complete this process without undue delays,” Allen said, adding his thanks to the 110th Aviation Brigade and 1st Aviation Brigade staffs for all of their hard work in streamlining the process.

For more information on virtual in and out processing, call 334-255-1814.