JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –Family and friends of trainees assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, are invited back to base for the first open graduation since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With the local case rates increasing at the time, community attendance at MEDCoE graduations was suspended on March 13, 2020 to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“We are so pleased to welcome back Family and friends for in-person graduations,” said Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, Commanding General, MEDCoE. “This has been a long time coming, and I am proud of our Soldiers and their Families, not only for their exceptional patience in the process, but in their commitment to protecting themselves and others from COVID-19.”
Reopening MEDCoE graduations will occur in a systematic manner that is not expected to be complete until July 9 at the earliest. On Monday, June 28, MEDCoE will conduct a pilot, or small scale, graduation before making the final decision on full implementation of policies and procedures allowing open graduations. The pilot graduation will consist of 14 advanced individual training, or AIT, Soldiers graduating as 68P Radiology Specialists in front of loved ones in an outdoor ceremony.
To ensure proper and effective measures are in place to keep MEDCoE Soldiers safe, several mitigation steps will be applied:
· Only Family or friends who have finished a complete vaccine series, plus two weeks, will be permitted to attend the graduation; personnel must show the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card for entry. Those unable to get fully vaccinated prior to the pilot graduation, may also show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the graduation event.
· Masks will be worn by all guests during the graduation and in unit areas, regardless of vaccine status.
· Graduating Soldiers who are not vaccinated will also wear a mask as required by current JBSA and unit policies.
· Soldiers may have up to two guests, including infants and small children. Each guest must be listed on their visitation list prior to the graduation.
MEDCoE is the Army’s component for medical training and education. They run 257 courses for 96 officer and warrant officer medical areas of concentration and 24 enlisted medical military occupational specialties, or MOSs, annually. While operating under COVID conditions, MEDCoE executed over 94% of their courses and graduated nearly 30,000 students in varying specialties ranging from doctors, nurses, and physician assistants to radiologists, medical logistic specialists and animal care technicians.
If all goes well with the pilot MEDCoE will conduct the first open 68W combat medic graduation, their largest MOS, on July 9 to mark full implementation of open graduations. Over 200 combat medics and their Families are expected for the event that will be held on Fort Sam’s MacArthur Parade Field, directly across from the MEDCoE Headquarters.
What about family visits after graduation? Families may be able to visit with their Soldier immediately following graduation as long as it does not conflict with permanent change of station, or PCS, travel. Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, Command Sergeant Major, MEDCoE, believes Family visits are what most of the trainees and their loved ones are most looking forward to.
“It has been at least six months since some Families have seen their Soldier in person,” said Charpentier. “We are happy to open the doors widely, as long as we are able to maintain the high standards of safety that helped us get to these milestones.”
Graduating Soldiers may request off-Base passes regardless of vaccine status. Those who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask at all times. Soldiers who remain on-Base may visit with their families away from the unit areas.
For more information on the pilot graduation or graduation frequently asked questions, visit the MEDCoE graduation page: www.medcoe.army.mil/graduations.