FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. – Brig. Gen. Anthony R. Hale, commander, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca hosted the fort’s recurring COVID Town Hall via Facebook Live yesterday evening. During the broadcast, Hale reminded the audience that General Order Number 8 went into effect Monday, January 4, tightening COVID mitigation measures on the installation to slow the spread of the virus on the fort and among its population.
Under the new General Order, personnel assigned to the fort may not dine-in on-base, or in off-base eateries. In addition, servicemembers must limit shopping to essential services only, such as groceries and fuel, limit gatherings to ten or fewer people, and must wear a mask at all times when in public both on and off-base regardless of local ordinances. On-post gyms have closed, as have Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities with the exception of the Golf Course, horse stables, RV Park, and Sportsman Center. Chapel services will only be offered online until the restrictions are lifted.
“Arizona is experiencing the highest infection rates we’ve had since the start of the pandemic, and all indications point to the situation only getting worse over the next several weeks,” said Hale. “I consulted with local, state, and federal experts, as well as all 53 tenant units on Fort Huachuca before deciding to implement a more restrictive GO8. I am absolutely sure this is the right thing to do for our entire community. We plan on keeping these restrictions in place for at least two weeks and then we will evaluate our situation to determine if we need to keep the new standards for a longer period of time, or whether we can go back to the way things operated under GO 7.”
The general planned the changes during Holiday Block Leave preparations and first publicly announced the pending changes on December 30, 2020, alongside his senior enlisted leader, Command Sergeant Major Warren. K. Robinson, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.
“Closing the gyms was a personally hard decision for me,” said Robinson, “But it’s the right thing to do, and the sacrifices we make now as a community will benefit us all in the long run.”
Across the command, thousands of servicemembers traveled for the holidays. While there was a known COVID risk, U.S. Army leaders felt the two-week reprieve from training missions was ultimately in the best interest of the force.
“We always ask a lot of our Soldiers and their families, but 2020 was especially difficult for many,” said Hale. “Allowing these Soldiers to go home for the holidays was the best way for them to rest and recharge, which is vital to work/life balance and resiliency. This training population was very tightly controlled for most of 2020 for their own safety. They complied with the 2020 restrictions at great personal sacrifice and deserved the opportunity to be with their loved ones for the holidays. We are ready to get back to our missions now, and these new restrictions will ensure the safest way ahead for the whole fort.”
The new rules are mandatory for all personnel on the fort, and Hale expects civilians will abide by the guidelines off-post as well since the new rules are in place to protect the fort as a whole.
“The restrictions on post, including the mask requirements and daily health screenings upon entry to public buildings, apply to everyone regardless of their status as Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, Department of the Army civilians, contractors, dependents, and authorized visitors,” said Hale. “Restrictions off of the installation are punitive for Active Duty personnel only. However, all of our civilians in the Fort Huachuca community are strongly encouraged to abide by these off-post restrictions in order to protect themselves, their families, their friends, and their coworkers.”
Hale and Robinson are looking to recreate the protective “bubble” around the training population that was in-place before Holiday Block Leave.
“I hope everyone who interacts with Fort Huachuca in any way will comply with GO8. I’d sincerely appreciate everyone keeping to these restrictions until we have reduced the risk,” said Robinson.
The general authorized maximum telework and encouraged supervisors to be mindful of how many are working on site. COVID screenings are mandatory at the entrance to every facility. “I’ve heard the dine-in restrictions are troubling for some, but really, there are a lot of options to include take-out and delivery that still allow people to enjoy restaurant meals while mitigating the risks we know are associated with dine-in service,” said Hale.
Hale and Robinson attend multiple COVID updates weekly to ensure they have the most up-to-date information on the virus. In addition to reviews at the local, state, national, and international levels, the command team speaks to the Medical Treatment Facility commander about every single case that touches Fort Huachuca to stay abreast of the trends.
“Our medical team and training cadre are doing an excellent job of keeping me and the CSM abreast of the situation. We evaluated all the factors closely and published GO 8 only after careful consideration for the overall well-being of our population,” said Hale. “I know the changes won’t be popular with everyone, and that’s ok. We are the best-trained military in the world and can get through this together.”
Commissary hours have not changed, and all beneficiaries are still invited to exercise their privileges there. The AAFES Regimental Troop Store in Prosser Village near the Van Deman Gate is closed to all patrons except students in Advanced Individual Training and select cadre on Fort Huachuca. The gas pumps will still be available to all.
Other AAFES stores including the Main Exchange, Express with Class 6 near the PX, and the Buffalo Soldier Trail Express are open for all other beneficiaries.
Questions on GO8 can be submitted to the command through official channels or via Facebook. Exceptions to Policy are being considered on an individual basis and should be submitted to the first O-5 in the servicemember’s chain of command.