Marines: Leaders must enforce distancing

Barricades prevent entrance through the Condor Gate to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Tuesday. The commanding general closed the gate to allow the provost marshal to focus efforts on other entrances.

TWENTYNINE PALMS — The commanding general of the combat center took to Facebook Friday night, March 20, saying some unit leaders weren’t taking coronavirus guidelines seriously enough, and on Monday, an enlisted man aboard the combat center agreed.

“I’m just concerned about how our small-unit leaders are handling the spread of the virus on base,” the man, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

“There are measures on base, but usually it’s the small unit leaders who are disregarding the measures that would keep the virus from spreading. They’re ordering us to do group PT (physical therapy), they’re ordering us to go to classes, they’re not taking it seriously.”

Capt. Nicole Plymale, from the combat center’s communications office, responded, “We are working with our tenant commands to balance the need for social distancing with training and readiness.”

Units have been instructed to minimize gatherings to no more than 10 people, Plymale said, and non-commissioned officers, senior non-commissioned officers and officers who see this behavior are being instructed to correct it.

“The PMO (provost marshal’s office) is driving around with a loudspeaker reminding Marines to keep a 6-foot distance between one another,” the captain added.

Brigadier General Roger Turner, commanding general of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, made his post at 7:35 p.m. Friday to urge people aboard the base to do more to prevent the spread of the disease.

“We must be more disciplined in adopting and enforcing social distancing and cleaning of hands and surfaces,” Turner wrote.

“In my travels around the base, I don’t think we are taking social distancing seriously enough. I am still seeing Marines moving in close order formations, unit PT at close order, folks too close together in the exchange,” the brigadier general continued.

“We need to get serious about breaking the cycle of transmission before it starts.”

The commander said at that time no one had tested positive for the new coronavirus aboard the base.

In a live Facebook address Thursday, March 19, Turner said he had to balance protecting the people aboard the installation with making sure the Marines and sailors are ready for combat.

“Our adversaries are definitely looking for weaknesses and they’re watching us,” he said. “We need to maintain combat readiness.”

The enlisted Marine said he appreciated Turner’s words. “He seems to understand what’s going on,” he said.

But he thinks the lack of attention from unit leaders could endanger lives.

“I have a lot of buddies who have newborn infants at home. I’m concerned about them, I’m concerned about my health,” he said.

Said Plymale, “We are doing everything we can to break the cycle of transmission before it starts. 

“This comes down to brilliance in the basics and small unit leadership,” she went on to say.

“We are doing what we can to minimize exposure and keep everyone on the base healthy.” 

At the time he spoke on Monday morning, the enlisted Marine expected to get an order for everyone in his platoon to go into a classroom for group education.

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