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U.S Army adapts to train Soldiers through COVID-19 to ensure mission readiness

By Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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The 128th Aviation Brigade is adapting along with the rest of the world, as they work to maintain mission readiness during this dynamic and rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

As hundreds of new recruits begin pouring in for training on Fort Eustis, health and safety measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of the Soldiers as well as the community.

“We’re not changing, we’re adjusting, and continually adapting in the environment no matter where we are, because we need to train, fight, and win,” said Gen. Paul Funk, the commanding general of U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, regarding new training policies.

Once Soldiers arrive from U.S. Army Basic Combat Training, they immediately go through medical screenings and are processed through reception. The screening includes a temperature check, previous and current health status verification, confirmation of no known COVID-19 symptoms and validation of previous screens completed at BCT.

“As we monitored the growing concerns with COVID-19, our organization began to quickly identify our options to mitigate impacts on training,” said Capt. Craig Svec, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 128th Aviation Brigade. “Due to our preventative planning, we have seen minimal impacts on the force. Our exceptional team was able to rapidly assess the training environments, implement social distancing and other preventive measures to ensure the safety of our instructors and students. Within the classroom setting most were able to be adjusted internally through spacing and positioning. However, those classrooms that were too small to support social distancing were simply moved to larger spaces such as hangar floors.”

The team also have safety precautions in place for all personnel attempting to enter the training facilities. They are required to wear a mask, have their temperatures checked and go through a medical screening.

“The brigade’s number one concern has been and continues to be the safety of the force,” Svec said. “We have sanitizing and hand washing points located throughout our facilities and their supply levels are constantly monitored and maintained. Additionally, prior to any training beginning for the shift, all equipment, devices and materials used are cleaned with disinfectant. Once training is complete, this operating procedure is then repeated.”

During class, the students are monitored to ensure they remain socially distanced; if they cannot maintain six feet of separation, they are instructed to wear a mask.

“Should anyone feel or appear symptomatic, we have a set response plan that we execute to quickly isolate the individual until medical experts can arrive to further evaluate,” Svec said. “We empower our leaders to be engaged, to constantly rove and check our points, processes, supplies and procedures to ensure they are being executed without failure and finding new ways to improve them every single day.”

According to 128th Avn. Bde. officials, there were no major changes made to the crucial hands-on training in the class. Some classes have reduced the student-to-instructor ratio and when tasks require hands-on training as dictated by the Programs of Instruction, instructors ensure students are abiding by the recommended guidelines.

“We are incredibly proud of our entire team of Soldiers, civilians, and families, who since early March have executed our fight against COVID-19 with the utmost of dedication and professionalism in some of the most challenging times our organization has encountered in its history,” Svec said. “We could not have 100 percent mission accomplishment while maintaining the health and safety of our personnel were it not for our tremendous professionals and continued efforts.”

There are currently 1,730 students and an additional 22 international students from 10 countries attending training. The Brigade trains more than 5,500 Soldiers annually to be the next generation of Army Aviation maintainers.

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