Fort Rucker will pause some of its flight training and restrict soldiers to a 50-mile radius in order to protect personnel from the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

“While we are curtailing flight operations for a period of time, we are not closing Fort Rucker; we are not closing the post,” Maj. Gen. David Francis, Fort Rucker’s commanding general, said Thursday during a Facebook Live discussion. “Our maintenance of the largest helicopter and fixed-wing fleet in the Army will continue just like we’re doing it right now. We have a large number of aircraft here that require maintenance.”

But with six cases of COVID-19 within 50 miles of the Army post, Francis announced an extension of current restrictions as well as the new protective measures.

“Our priorities have not changed,” Francis said during the Facebook event. “Our number one priority is the protection of our soldiers, our civilians and our family members. That is priority number one and has not changed. Priority number two is the protection of our critical mission here. We supply pilots to our combat aviation brigades across the Army that still are required to deploy, fight and win even during this crisis, and so our mission here is absolutely critical to the operational force of the Army.”

While Francis emphasized that Fort Rucker has no positive cases of COVID-19, the post does have 183 soldiers, family members and contractors who are currently in quarantine for 14 days because they either did not feel well or believe they may have been in contact with someone who is sick. So far, the post has tested 20 people with 15 negative results and five still pending.

Fort Rucker will pause initial entry training, which will pause flight training for about 810 students for two weeks from April 6-17. Francis said those dates could change. Fort Rucker will continue its instructor pilot course, maintenance test pilot course and fixed-wing training that is held in Dothan.

“This will keep 154 students still training,” Francis said. “So we will significantly reduce the amount of flight training we have going on here for a couple of weeks as we continue to assess this situation.”

Francis said the pause will give Fort Rucker a chance to address how it cleans aircraft and simulators between flight periods and allow them to get COVID-19 test kits on post so people can be immediately tested.

Leave for soldiers will be tightened to 50 miles from Fort Rucker, which would still allow travel to Enterprise and Dothan but not as far as Montgomery or the Florida Panhandle.

“This restriction is in place to protect all of us,” Francis said.

The use of Google classrooms in Fort Rucker schools and limits on use of the Child Development Center will continue along with measures like social distancing and teleworking. Starting Monday, soldiers will be doing individual physical training.

Personnel are asked not to have visitors, including family, from outside the 50-mile radius around Fort Rucker. Temperature screenings will be done at commissary and PX entrances starting Saturday, March 28.

“The inconvenience that we bear right now could potentially save lives and we each have an individual responsibility in this effort to make that happen,” Francis said.

For the latest information on the coronavirus visit https://www.dothaneagle.com/coronavirus.

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