FORT POLK, La. – The medic began counting down from ten. For the patient, time slowed to a crawl.
“You’re going to feel some slight discomfort,” the medic said, while sliding a skinny cotton swab down the Soldier’s nostril. The medic gave the warning with good intent, but nothing could prepare the soldier for the sensation of a COVID-19 test. With eyes watering and an itchy throat, the soldier was ready to go.
The soldier’s negative test results allowed him to join Task Force Warrior’s team of about 200 leaders deploying from Hawaii to the Joint Readiness Training Center’s Leaders Training Program here.
“Testing 100% of our task force for COVID-19 is just one of our mitigation efforts,” said Col. Neal Mayo, commander of Task Force Warrior and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “We maintained a ‘bubble’ throughout the entire operation. No un-tested individual was allowed in or out of our area.”
“This deployment is proof, it can be done,” said Mayo, referring to safely deploying a force to LTP using virus protection measures. “We respect the seriousness of this pandemic. I’m confident we can employ the same COVID-19 prevention strategy in October to pursue JRTC’s world-class, irreplaceable training while protecting our Soldiers and their Families.”
In addition to testing, the team followed additional COVID-19 mitigation measures including wearing protective masks, social distancing whenever possible, employing hand sanitizing stations, consistent hand-washing, and daily temperature checks at the training facility’s entrance.
The Leaders Training Program is a ten-day planning conference providing commanders and staff an opportunity to hone their military decision making process skills and systems. The program is facilitated by retired, senior military planning coaches giving trainees best practices and lessons learned from previous iterations.
“Geronimo isn’t ready for us,” said Maj. David Yi, executive officer of Task Force Warrior and 2IBCT, referring to JRTC’s ‘opposition force’ used to provide realistic training by engaging the task force as a peer-to-peer enemy. “It’s important our team leaves JRTC stronger and more lethal. But, make no mistake, winning matters to this team. We fight to win.”
In October, 2BCT and enablers across the military will form Task Force Warrior to conduct a full, decisive action JRTC rotation, complete with force-on-force and live-fire exercises.