FORT SILL – Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper has extended the “Health and Safety Stand Down” through April 14 and imposed a curfew. The base has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to the installation.
A Department of the Army civilian previously identified as stricken with COVID-19 “has been medically cleared, he’s healthy, he’s recovered,” Kamper announced March 31 during his second “town hall” broadcast. Nevertheless, the civilian is “remaining at home for 14 more days,” Kamper said.
The seven Fort Sill cases are among 27 COVID-19 patients in Comanche County that the State Health Department reported on April 3.
The stand-down, which started March 26, minimizes the Fort Sill workforce to just essential personnel in an effort to protect military personnel and the public during the coronavirus health crisis, according to the Fort Sill Public Affairs Office.
Essential tasks that the base continues to perform during the stand-down include basic combat training and the required support agencies needed to run that operation.
Kamper, the commanding general at Fort Sill, issued General Order #1, which applies to all service personnel and Department of the Army civilians assigned to the post. The order, issued March 30, outlines safety measures to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 and synchronize with Lawton’s efforts, said Jessica Tackaberry, Fort Sill’s public information officer.
For example, Fort Sill’s Soldiers are forbidden from traveling beyond a 60-mile radius of the post “through April and probably into May,” Kamper said previously. A curfew forbidding soldiers from being out and about between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. also is in effect, similar to a curfew announced by Lawton Mayor Stan Booker.
The Department of Defense has suspended all domestic travel, including leave, PCS and TDY, until May 11. The only authorized exceptions to travel are mission-essential functions or to obtain emergency medical care during curfew hours, Tackaberry said.
Fort Sill is taking more stringent precautions and following local and state direction, she said. “We encourage everyone to adhere to the principles of social distancing, good personal hygiene through washing of hands, minimizing our workforce through telework and limiting unnecessary movement to only essential travel,” said Command Sgt. Major John W. Foley.
Feedback from Kamper’s two “town hall” broadcasts has “helped to improve many systems across Fort Sill,” the general said.
One area of feedback was the operation of fitness centers on the post. “In an abundance of caution,” all fitness centers closed effective April 1 and will remain closed “until it is safe to reopen them,” Tackaberry reported.
Fort Sill’s child development centers are still open but are operating at “about 40% capacity,” and most advanced individual training has been suspended, Kamper said.
Basic trainees are still arriving at Fort Sill, but only half as many as before the coronavirus pandemic spread, the general said. The post is “moving toward” 14 days of “controlled monitoring” of the trainees in platoon-size groups, followed by a day and a half of processing and then eight weeks of basic training.
“The commissary is still being stocked; we just received four truckloads of supplies,” Kamper said March 31. “We’re still trying to get more hand sanitizer,” he added.
Nearly 800 people at Fort Sill were “teleworking” on March 31, and the general said he expects that to continue through May 11 “and perhaps beyond that.”
“During these dynamic and fluid times, Fort Sill continues to find and implement innovative ways to reduce overcrowding and employ principles of social distancing in all training. Areas that have been modified include but are not limited to the classrooms, dining facilities, meetings, and hand-washing stations distributed throughout entrances of facilities on Fort Sill to further encourage hand washing. We are committed to providing a safe training environment for everyone who lives and works here.”
Facilities at Fort Sill that have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic include the post museums, the Nye Library, the bowling alley, the Patriot Club, Sheridan Theater, and religious services, Kamper related.
The Army post’s “top priority” remains the health and safety of its Soldiers, families, DA civilians and community, he said.