- The Washington Times
Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Navy recruits spend two weeks at a Chicago-area water park before they set foot on the grounds of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center to learn how to be a sailor.

Meanwhile, Marine hopefuls are spending their first 14 days at The Citadel military college in South Carolina before they begin training at the nearby Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island.

The Navy-bound troops aren’t on vacation and the future Marines aren’t auditing any college courses, however. This is what has to be done to keep everyone healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic, military officials said.

On Tuesday, the heads of initial training for the Marine Corps and the Navy both said the two week off-base quarantine period is proving to be one of the most expensive items on their COVID-19 checklist.

“We’re trying to find a less expensive way of doing what we’re doing now,” Maj. Gen. William F. Mullen, head of the USMC’s Training and Education Command, told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Navy is reportedly spending more than $1 million to house about 500 undergoing a pre-basic training COVID-19 quarantine at the Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark, about 10 miles northwest of the Navy training base.

“By far, the most expensive part of this for us is paying for our off-site [restriction-of-movement] facilities,” said Rear Adm. Jamie Sands, head of the Naval Service Training Command, who oversees recruit instructions.

The Navy is looking at another military facility nearby to house recruits before they begin training. The new arrangement could last for a year, Adm. Sands said

“We’re looking at this over the long haul,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is find a less expensive way of doing what we’re doing now.”

The two-week restriction of moment, Adm. Sands said, has both mitigated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and helped the Navy maintain a steady flow of recruits.

“It has been very effective,” he said.

More than 6,700 new recruits are engaged in some kind of basic training activity at Great Lakes and more than 1,200 new recruits have shipped out each week.

“We believe we are on track to meet the Navy’s accession goal of 40,800 sailors for [fiscal year] 2020,” Adm. Sands said. “They are tough, well-prepared and excited to join the fleet.”

Maj. Gen. Mullen said the Marine Corps‘ problem isn’t attracting new recruits, but rather finding sufficient bunk space because of social distancing.

“We have all the recruits we need in our pool. It’s just a case of putting them in a squad bay,” he said.

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