SALT LAKE CITY — After putting a temporary pause on shipping future soldiers away to basic training, the local U.S. Army recruiting battalion is ready to reestablish its former routine.
Starting on April 20, the regional recruitment unit is scheduled to resume normal operations. The Salt Lake City Army Recruiting Battalion is responsible for all recruiting operations in eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Raphael Vasquez, said the temporary suspension was instituted earlier this month in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Prior to (April 6), we were still shipping with no issues at all whatsoever,” he said. “The reason we went to a pause is because we wanted to make sure that we added an additional layer of pandemic security, if you will — an additional layer of safety to any of our young men and women that are shipping to basic training.”
He said the pause allowed for an observation period for prospective soldiers who may have been exposed to coronavirus.
“We wanted to create a two-week buffer so that if an applicant decides to ship, we could say OK, you should self-isolate for 14 days,” he explained. ”Then when you ship on the 20th, every day after we can say that you definitely were on self-isolation for two weeks. Then when you get to basic training, there will be a two-week monitoring phase there as well.”
He said once the applicant arrives, there will be some training being conducted at an introductory level, but it will take place in a controlled environment with social distancing. After the two weeks, applicants resume their normal basic training curriculum and regimen as they would any other time, he said.
“We just added another two weeks to kind of monitor them to see if there is anybody that is symptomatic,” Vasquez explained. “We (then) have time to test them and make sure that the results are back in and then we should be good to go.”
He said that during the pause, recruitment had taken place primarily “in the virtual realm” and nearly all other administrative work was being done from home for military personnel.
“In the next couple of days, Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper is going to issue some new guidance, but every week, there’s an assessment of how much should we expand the recruiting operations in terms of shipping (recruits) to make sure that we’re following the guidelines,” he said. “We are all about doing everything we can to minimize the peak and flatten out that curve.”