“We recognize right now, certainly the senior leadership of Fort Riley and our Army, that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented, dynamic and increasingly stressful, global pandemic,” said Col. Kevin Lambert, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley chief of staff during a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday streamed on the Fort Riley Facebook page. “I would tell you that your senior leaders both here and in the Army, are continuously assessing the threat that [corona virus disease 2019] poses to our communities, our families, our soldiers and our ability to respond should our nation call. And as a result of that, there is continuing guidance that is being put out that we do the best that we can to capture in our frequently asked questions. I would ask you to check that daily as we update that and post it to our social media sites.”
The weekly town hall provided the latest information available on COVID-19 and what soldiers, families and visitors to the installation can expect as a result of the Department of the Army raising the Health Protection Condition to level Charlie Wednesday afternoon.
“(The) 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley are continuing to implement precautions that limit the spread of COVID,” said Col Stephen Shrader, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley commander via telephone. “In accordance with Department of Defense and the Department of the Army guidance, Fort Riley will implement mission essential manning effective 1200 hours tomorrow 26 March.
“What does mission essential mean? So, mission essential functions are those that are in support of COVID-19 operations and the life, health and safety of personnel in the installation,” he added. “Non-mission essential functions include, but are not limited to, field training exercises, group or unit physical readiness training and other training directed that satisfy unit task-order requirements. Unit commanders will be able to weigh in on that, brief the senior commander of the installation ... on their plans going forward to implement those measures.”
Shrader emphasized that soldiers and families were still free to move around the installation as long as they abide by the guidance of social distancing — remaining 6 feet apart from non-family members — limited social interactions to groups of 10 people or less and followed the enhanced hygiene guidelines set out — using hand washing stations prior to entering the Exchange or Commissary.
Access to Fort Riley is now limited to Department of Defense identification card holders and pre-existing Fort Riley visitor access credential holders — recently added service connected veterans and care givers.
“At the gate, all personnel must still show their proper ID and answer the screening questions,” Shrader said. “With the implementation of HPCON Charlie today at 1200 hours, we’re also reviewing and have implemented in some cases, ACP access control measure closures, and we’re going to continue to assess those closures as we go over the next 24 to 48 hours and see if we need to reevaluate.”
Col. Ted Brown, Irwin Army Community Hospital commander, updated the Facebook audience to the response and changes made at the hospital to handle the pandemic.
“Irwin Army Community Hospital continues to take measures to number one; ensure the safety and health of all of our patients and our facility as well as our staff members,” he said. “And if you’ve been to the hospital in the last week or so, you’ve probably experienced some of those measures. We’re also making every effort to continue to provide the necessary health care services as Colonel Shrader mentioned. One of those essential services is health. And that is our that is our main function at Irwin Army Community Hospital to serve the Fort Riley community, our soldiers and family members.”
Patients and staff members have to go through screening stations prior to gaining access to the hospital. The station includes an area to either wash hands or use hand sanitizer, Brown said.
“You’ll be asked a few questions with respect to any symptoms you have or potential exposures to COVID or COVID contacts,” Brown said. “And then finally, you’ll have your temperature taken. Those measures are in place, again, to ensure the safety of our patients, our staff as well as our facility itself.”
The nearly hour-long town hall meeting featured an answer and question session where moderator Brandon French, program and management analyst, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office, asked popular questions posed during the livestream. The full video, including the question and answer session can be found on the Fort Riley Facebook page, www.facebook.com/FortRiley
“We have not taken these measures lightly,” said Maj. Gen. John S. Kolasheski, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, during closing thoughts and statements. “We understand those second and third order effects, but the chain of command in all of the soldiers that are on this installation are laser focused on protecting the force. That force is our soldiers, our airmen, our Department of the Army civilians and our families, as well as the communities in which we live.”
Fort Riley officials regularly update COVID-19 response information at https://home.army.mil/riley/index.php/my-fort/all-services/coronavirus-information.