Fort Campbell conducts mass COVID-19 testing as they push forward with training during pandemic
Fort Campbell officials are forging ahead with plans to deploy a brigade next month to train at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preparations for that training deployment include a mass testing drill this week where the more than 4,000 soldiers set to deploy will receive mandatory testing for COVID-19.
To make that happen, the installation set up a testing site at one of the flight hangers on post. There, all the soldiers in the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, known as 'Strike,' are being tested prior to deploying as part of their regularly-scheduled training rotation at Fort Polk, which tests the brigade's ability to fight as a team.
The deployment begins in early August and ends in early September.
Fort Campbell officials said any soldiers who test positive will be immediately isolated and remain at Fort Campbell until cleared by medical professionals.
They say the testing is designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and preserve the readiness of the force.
Fort Campbell leaders point out they've been working with medical experts including the division surgeon, the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital commander, epidemiologists, preventative medicine specialists, and other healthcare professionals to balance their training needs with the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of mid-June, 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell senior commander Maj. Gen. Brian Winski said the numbers of positive cases among active duty troops have remained relatively low.
"Fort Campbell's trajectory has been slower and lower than the surrounding communities, but we have had an increase in cases. All told, it's about a half of one percent of the active duty population of Fort Campbell that's tested positive," said Winksi in a virtual town hall on June 14. "They're all fine. They're in isolation recovering, and they will fully recover. None are hospitalized."
He noted they have gotten questions about why they're proceeding with training, given the pandemic.
"We haven't had a (contact) trace go back to units conducting tactical training," pointed out Winski in the virtual town hall. "It's generally been social settings as the main factor, and then in some circumstances soldiers in the maintenance field ... when they're working in close contact with each other."
He said despite the pandemic, it's important for soldiers on Fort Campbell to continue their training.
"I'll remind everybody that Fort Campbell's purpose is to deter any threats that America may face, and if and when called on, to fight and win ... and win decisively. So a big part of that, of taking care of your soldiers, is making sure they are fully prepared for what awaits them in combat. Nothing does that more than an intensive training cycle leading up to and including a rotation down at that Joint Readiness Training Center. It's a really good workout for the unit, and they emerge from that thing ready for combat," Winski said.
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