Sailors who train Navy recruits at boot camp will no longer be allowed to go back to their own homes at night as the service hit hardest by the coronavirus continues rolling out new policies to try to stop the spread.
Starting Thursday night, Navy recruit division commanders and other boot camp staff will spend 90-day cycles at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. Command Master Chief David Twiford announced the new rules in an email to the command, telling them "No one will be allowed to leave the installation," Navy Times reported on Wednesday.
The unusual decision is based on the effect the highly contagious coronavirus has had on the force, Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Martin, a spokesman for Recruit Training command, told Military.com. The boot camp lockdown will "minimize the chance of the virus infecting this vital accessions pipeline for the Navy and ensure our ability to man the Fleet."
Martin said the command recognizes the new 90-day tours would place extra burdens on its sailors "who are already performing an arduous mission during their shore duty, and together with their families, trying to navigate this national crisis."
"We understand and greatly appreciate the sacrifice these sailors and their families are making, but given the extraordinary circumstances we are in, this action must be taken to ensure the ability to protect our recruits and staff while creating basically trained sailors," Martin said.
Case-by-case exceptions for staff with family issues or other considerations are being evaluated, he added. But Twiford told the command families would "have to be able to for the most part function without us for a bit, just like when we deploy," according to Navy Times.
The move at Great Lakes is one of several aggressive policies Navy leaders have enacted amid the global pandemic. The service has 14-day required quarantines between port calls at sea and also postponed selection boards, advancement exams and fitness tests to help prevent personnel from having to congregate.
It also announced the relaxing of some grooming standards to keep its personnel from having to make routine trips to the barbershop or salon, where they wouldn't be able remain six feet away from other people.
New recruits showing up to boot camp are screened for coronavirus symptoms before they're allowed to start training.
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