Senior leadership from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell garrison and Blanchfield Army Community Hospital continued their weekly Facebook Live town hall series, May 19, providing updates on the post’s COVID-19 response and its impacts on operations and the community.
Major General Brian E. Winski, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell; Col. Jeremy D. Bell, Fort Campbell garrison commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan D. Barker, 101st Abn. Div. senior enlisted adviser; and Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital commander, answered questions and concerns from Fort Campbell community members in real time. This town hall continued last week’s focus on responsibly reopening the installation and its services.
Winski reported that for the Fort Campbell population of nearly a quarter million Soldiers, retirees, the government civilian workforce, contractors and their Families, the spread of COVID-19 remains relatively low.
“If I had to characterize it all, we’re in really good shape here on Fort Campbell and our Fort Campbell constituency compared to other parts of the country, even other parts of the states that we live in,” Winski said.
Fort Campbell has 13 COVID-19 active cases, one of which is an active-duty Soldier, he said.
“The great news is none of which require hospitlization,” Winski said. “All are recovering and being monitored by health professionals.”
The majority of Fort Campbell’s civilian workforce and Soldiers are returning to standard duty days, he said. The sounds of freedom can be heard across the community with units conducting small arms ranges, artillery, machine gun gunnery and crew drill training.
“We are back in a good stride and we’re watching it very close,” Winski said. “A lot of the safeguards that we talked about are being implemented well. If things change, we’ll dial this back. But if things stay on the trajectory that they are we’ll continue with this type of training progressing to collective training and larger scale maneuver live-fires in the weeks ahead especially as we enter into the June timeframe.
“We’re looking at this through the lens of our solemn obligation to ensure when the call comes and Screaming Eagles are committed to combat, they are absolutely trained, ready and fully prepared for the rigors of combat,” he continued. “That is what all of this training is about. We are going to do it while protecting them from COVID-19, and our medical professionals are keeping an eye on it for us – advising us along the way – and every decision is with their complete input.”
Among the increased activity, The Sabalauski Air Assault School will resume training next week. Each class sizes will reduce from the normal 200 to no more than 75 Soldiers to ensure social distancing. Pathfinder and Pre-Ranger courses also are starting in June. Changes of command and changes of responsibility ceremonies will continue in a modified way to minimize the number of troops involved while recognizing the units and its leaders, Winski said.
“I want to assure you every decision we are making – even with the increased activity going on – is staying parallel or a little more restrictive to the outside community,” he said. “We are watching it all very closely, our health care professionals are keeping an eye on this, so we don’t stumble into a spike in cases. We are going to predictively see them coming, and the dial we’re turning up this week, we may notch it back, make adjustments and continue.”
Memorial Day observances
Memorial Day will be recognized differently this year.
“This would have been Week of Eagles,” Winski said. “We have a number of events we weave in throughout the week, which includes the survivor outreach event, boot display, the Memorial Day ceremony, the division run and review to honor those who have gone before us. It’s sad we aren’t able to do it this year, but we are going to do some things to broadcast on social media to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in uniform.”
On Memorial Day, May 25, at 1:01 p.m., Winski invites the Fort Campbell community to participate in a moment of silence to honor the fallen.
“Like a lot of you, I look forward to spending time that day walking the memorials adjacent to the [Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum] and reflecting on the Screaming Eagles who went before us who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Travel continues to be restricted to a 50-mile radius, though Winski suggested Families take advantage of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area which is within the travel restriction parameters.
“Social distancing is still the expectation when utilizing these things, but Families are welcome to access them this weekend and any other weekend,” he said.
Reopening services on Fort Campbell
The Child Development Centers are open, and while they are only operating at 50% capacity, Morale, Welfare and Recreation is working to increase capacity in the coming weeks, if possible.
As of now Wounded Warriors, single Soldiers and dual-active duty Soldiers have access to on-post child care. Watters 1 and 2, Eagles and Gardner Hills CDCs, and the Bastogne, Airborne and Gardner Hills School Age Centers, and New Beginnings Pre-K program reopened May 11. Tennessee Hourly Care and Taylor Youth Center remain closed.
Other services are slowly reopening or are in the process of reopening with guidance from preventive medicine professionals.
“Sit-down dining will open next week for AAFES and MWR facilities,” Bell said. “In-person counseling will resume next week, largely applying to CYS, ACS and DHR services.”
MWR Gear-to-Go is open for outdoor recreational equipment, but party supplies are not available. The skeet and archery ranges are open to all patrons. RV and cabin rentals, as well as the kennel, are also open. Engravings, Etc., is open for curbside service and pickup. Leisure Travel is open by appointment only. The Robert F. Sink Memorial Library is open for curbside book pickup. Books can be ordered online and picked up outside of the library, curbside. Department of the Army photo lab reopened this week, and Campbell Crossing-Lendlease has begun working on backlogged work orders. Motorcycle safety classes also began this week.
Pools and physical fitness centers remain closed. Bell said pools will not open in outside communities until late June, and Fort Campbell preventive medicine professionals are closely monitoring health conditions to determine when on-post pools and PFCs can open.
Maintenance and upkeep of the pools is continuing so they will be ready when the time comes to open, Winski said.
TC Freeman Gate (Gate 4) will be closed for road work 5 a.m. May 22-5 a.m. May 26. During the closure Gare 3 will remain open for entry to post. The Gate 4 visitors center will remain accessible throughout the road work.
Stop movement and PCS
The Department of Defense’s stop movement order continues through June 30. This action was taken to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. PCS movement could begin again later in June if the COVID-19 threat levels decrease, Winski said.
Barker said Fort Campbell is using a phased approached during the stop movement to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 when bringing new Soldiers to Fort Campbell and adjusting reporting dates either 30 days early or 20 days later.
Return from deployment
The elements of the 531st Hospital Center and the 586th Field Hospital and its subordinate detachments – 431st, 175th and 41st Medical Detachments – returned home May 12 after a deployment in support of New York City’s health care system in its fight against COVID-19. Upon arrival at Fort Campbell, the Soldiers were placed in quarantine on post and were reunited with their Families at an official welcome home celebration on May 21 at the division parade field.
Lifeliners of 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade and some 531st Soldiers remain deployed in New York and the Northeast as they help support the health care systems there as they respond to COVID-19.
Health care procedures
Birchfield said BACH is working to open medical services in a responsible way while mitigating risk to ensure the hospital remains capable to absorb any potential COVID-19 cases.
“The first thing we are hitting at is physical exam readiness, it’s a relatively low-risk type of patient we can see and also focuses on readiness for the division,” he said.
Anyone deploying, redeploying, retiring or applying to attend a military school can now get a physical exam, Birchfield said. Some of these exam services include audiology and vision screening, flight physicals and military school physicals.
“With dental, we are providing only urgent deployment and emergency procedures,” he said. “As you can imagine, those type of procedures produce a lot of aerosolizing droplets and we really want to minimize those as best we can. We are providing exams for other Soldiers, but we are prioritizing any unit who has a readiness requirement for a potential future deployment.”
Urgent health care services for Family members and retirees are available for in-person or virtual appointments. Immunizations are available for children 2 years of age and younger, or anyone medically or immune compromised. Expecting mothers have access in-person and virtual appointments. Sports physicals for Family members are not available, but Birchfield said BACH is working on a solution to provide those services in the future.
BACH now does in-house COVID-19 testing for health care professionals and patients, Birchfield said. If you think you may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, reach out to the nurse advice line at 800-874-2273 for an assessment to determine if testing is needed.
“As we open things up, it’s because people are demonstrating a personal responsibility and we have to continue that if we want things to get closer to normal,” Barker said. “Individual responsibility is paramount in order to open up the 50-mile radius, to be able to travel farther, and to do the things we haven’t been able to do since early March.”
To stay current on Fort Campbell COVID-19 updates, visit: https://home.army.mil/campbell/index.php/covid-19