Recently, the Marine Corps’ top leaders released a video thanking Marines and their families for their hard work, as well as explaining the importance of continuing Marine Corps recruit training despite concerns about the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.
In the video, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, pointed out that commanders at the various commands throughout the Corps have been making good decisions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, and went on to say that the Corps as a whole will have to continue to make decisions aimed at maintaining readiness while making every effort to ensure the health and safety of Marines and recruits.
At the close of the video, the two Marines also explained why it’s essential that the Corps continues training, pointing out that the president and the nation are still counting on the Marine Corps to be able to respond in times of need. As a part of the Corps’ commitment to answering that call, recruit training continues, despite concerns about the potential spread of the coronavirus.
“We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.” General Berger said.
Recruits aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island and San Diego are screened prior to their departure as well as upon their arrival for training. Any recruits that are exhibiting symptoms are separated from the rest and isolated to receive medical treatment.
All other recruits are having their first formation on the Marines Corps’ legendary yellow steps postponed by 14 days. During that span of time, these recruits are kept isolated from other training platoons and observed for signs of illness. If they make it through those 14 days, they’re clear to begin training.
But the precautions don’t end there. Social distancing has been adopted in all situations that permit it, including spacing out where recruits sleep in squad bays. For circumstances that don’t allow for social distancing, recruits, like the rest of the force, are required to wear cloth face coverings, most of which are made out of standard issue skivvy shirts.
These face coverings offer a bit of added protection when used in conjunction with frequent hand washing and social distancing. They also inhibit the flow of moisture (spit) leaving each person’s mouth, helping to reduce the potential transmission of the virus by those who are carrying it.
The result is an unusual scene, with recruits and drill instructors conducting training just as you’d expect, but with their faces shrouded behind green masks that have prompted some commenters to draw comparisons between new Marine recruits and legendary GI Joe ninjas like Snake Eyes and Stormshadow.
Families and the public are barred from attending recruit training graduations as a further precaution against exposure to the virus. The decision may have left many loved ones heartbroken, but public responses have largely been supportive of the Corps and its newest Marines as they continue to train amid this difficult set of circumstances.
As General Berger and Sergeant Major Black point out, no one knows how long these changes will last or even if others may be coming. Leaders across the Corps are continuing to adjust fire as needed to ensure the readiness of the force and the health and safety of its most valuable assets–the Marines themselves.
“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video.
“And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.