The U.S. Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon held a COVID Response Town Hall Thursday.
A lot of changes have occurred on the installation with regards to COVID-19 since the last town hall, which was held Sept. 17. The biggest change, according to Maj. Gen. Neil S. Hersey, Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, was a decision to transition from Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie to HPCON Bravo. Hersey said he made the decision after having “close consultation” with military and medical leaders.
“The COVID-19 crisis is nowhere near over, and we must continue to take it seriously, and that’s going to involve support from everyone here on Fort Gordon and our surrounding communities,” he said.
With the change to HPCON Bravo comes the change to being an unrestricted installation, which Hersey described as “a very important milestone in terms of all forms of travel to and from the installation.”
Hersey also spoke about updates he made to General Order No. 1 on Oct. 5, which include permission to dine indoors on and off the installation, using fitness centers on and off post, and increased flexibility with leave requests.
While the changes are without a doubt good news, leaders reiterated that the battle against COVID-19 is not over.
Brig. Gen. Paul G. Craft, chief of cyber and U.S. Army Cyber School commandant, expressed his gratitude for first responders and medical personnel, who have been working around the clock.
“We have a weekly update with where we are medically and what things are going on in our community, and our first responders – and especially our lab techs – are still working very, very hard with the COVID testing, having done tens of thousands right here at [Eisenhower Army Medical Center],” Craft said.
Craft urged the community to remain diligent with washing hands, wearing masks, disinfecting areas regularly, maintaining social distance, and to essentially keep up the good habits that brought Fort Gordon to where it is now.
Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Shaw Pick said that the installation in a “better place,” but is still “far from safe.”
Elaborating on some of the changes that come with the HPCON level move, Pick reiterated what Hersey had touched on with regards to installation access.
“All authorized users with a reason to be on Fort Gordon will be allowed through with approved ID or AIE passes or if they vetted through the Visitor Control Center and background checks,” Pick explained.
Other changes that will impact day-to-day operations include increasing child development center occupancy from 50 to 75 percent, return of indoor dining (with socially distanced seating), and reopening fitness centers to authorized ID cardholders, with exception of Cyber Fitness Center (Gym 5), which remains restricted to the trainee population.
“I would best describe it as a deliberate relaxation of some restrictions, but not the removal of all restrictions, and we are not back to ‘business as usual’ on Fort Gordon,” Pick said. “Again, these services are returning, but they are going to look different for the foreseeable future, and so we ask for your patience in helping us get back to hopefully a full capacity for all services, but we want to do it safely.”
In closing, CCoE and Fort Gordon Command Sgt. Maj. Delia Quintero thanked everyone who participated in the town hall and encouraged service members to continue to ask questions.
“As I always say, leverage your chain of command and your chain of command should be answering all these questions for you and assisting you in anything you need assistance with. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay resilient.”
The next virtual town hall will be Nov. 5, at which time one of the main topics for discussion will be holiday block leave.
The latest version of General Order No. 1 can be found on the Fort Gordon Facebook page and by visiting the Fort Gordon Homepage at https://home.army.mil/gordon/index.php/coronavirus.
For footage of the town hall and a link for the slides shown, visit the Fort Gordon Facebook page.