FORT SILL, Oklahoma (April 21, 2021) -- Basic combat training (BCT) graduations will reopen to the public here in May. Graduations will reopen for advanced individual training (AIT) courses in June. All graduations will continue to be livestreamed.
“Moms and dads and families all across America are going to have a chance to come see their loved ones graduate,” said Maj. Gen. Ken Kamper, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general. “We’re very, very excited about that.”
Trainee graduations and COVID-19 vaccination questions dominated the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill virtual town hall meeting April 20, livestreamed from McNair Hall.
In his welcome, FCoE and Fort Sill Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Burnley, said he and other senior leaders here have been spending a lot of time with formations the past couple weeks.
“If your loved one is at Fort Sill, please know that he or she is cared for, and we are committed to ensuring that they can thrive, are valued, and are part of a disciplined cohesive team that is built on trust,” Burnley said.
Senior Army leadership decided to reopen BCT graduations beginning at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in April, Kamper said. The 434th Field Artillery Brigade will monitor how those go, and take any lessons learned from those openings.
Kamper said it is a risk bringing folks from across America together and so he encouraged graduation visitors to get COVID vaccinated. He said facemasks and physically distancing will be required at graduations. And, he recommended washing hands frequently.
“Fort Sill cannot require vaccinations, but strongly encourage them as our best defense against COVID spreading,” posted Joe Gallagher, civilian deputy to the FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, during the meeting.
Fort Sill will step up offering vaccinations to AIT Soldiers and BCT trainees in the coming days, Kamper said.
TRICARE beneficiaries who want to schedule a COVID vaccination can call the Reynolds Army Health Clinic at 833-286-3732, said Col. David Zinnante, Fort Sill Medical Department Activity commander. RAHC staff are predominately administering the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccines are not intended for people under the age of 16.
434th FA Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Slater provided details on the BCT graduation reopening.
The brigade’s first open BCT graduation will be May 21, at 10:30 a.m. at Polo Field. In cases of inclement weather, graduations will be held at Cache Creek Chapel and those plans are being finalized, he said. Following graduation, families are welcome to join their Soldiers until 1 p.m.
BCT family day will be held the day before graduation. Family day for the two batteries graduating May 21, occurs May 20. Families can pick up their Soldiers from their battalion’s designated location starting at 9 a.m. and can spend the day on or off Fort Sill. Soldiers must return to their respective battalion before 8 p.m., continued Slater.
A dedicated lane of traffic for BCT graduation visitors will be set up at Key Gate West, said Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Blackwell. Those visitors do not have to go through the Visitor Control Center (VCC) for a pass. Instead, IDs will be scanned to determine if people have outstanding warrants, are on a barred list, are felons, etc. If so, they will have to go through the VCC, and/or other appropriate actions will be taken.
AIT graduations open to the public June 1, with the same pandemic protocols used for BCT graduations.
Q & A
During the pandemic, Soldiers are not authorized annual leave between BCT graduation and their AIT school reporting date; nor are they authorized it between AIT and their first duty station, reiterated the command sergeants major.
Also, families cannot transport their Soldiers to their next assignment because the Army is using sterile air and ground transportation because of the pandemic, Slater said.
Yes, you can hug your Soldier at graduation, Kamper said.
It’s not a good idea to bring your dog to graduations, said Blackwell responding to a question. A Yorkshire terrier might be OK though, interjected Kamper.
Fort Sill’s iSportsman is operational for recreational area vehicle passes, fishing and hunting licenses, etc., said the commanding general.
One viewer was concerned that a RAHC health care provider was imposing their personal values in the dispensing of birth control pills. Zinnante said that would be looked in to.
There are no plans to open the Fort Sill Commissary before noon on Sundays, said Garrison commander Col. Rhett Taylor.
Kamper suggested that family members monitor and stay tuned to their respective unit Facebook pages and Fort Sill Facebook page for updates on graduations and family days as information may change. Dedicated BCT/AIT virtual town halls are conducted every other Thursday. The next one is April 22, at 11 a.m.
Closing, Slater said: “We appreciate the support of the American people as we continue to defend this great nation of ours. It is honestly a privilege and an honor to train future Soldiers and leaders of this great organization through a culture of values, fitness, and resiliency.”
Note: Town halls may be viewed at https;//sill-www.army.mil and https://www.facebook.com/officialftsill/. The next Sill Facts virtual meeting is May 4, at 6 p.m. The next FCoE Town Hall is May 18, at 6 p.m. All graduations are live streamed at https://livestream.com/firescenter.