In recent months, the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, began spreading rapidly throughout the United States and the rest of the world. For a time, it seemed like it was starting to get under control. But recently, the wave has spread even further.
The Marine Corps, as of July 7th, 2020, has had only 1,600 infections. But a virus like this has the potential to impact the readiness of the Corps if it spreads, so steps are being taken to minimize its impact.
So how is the Coronavirus changing Marine Boot Camp?
14-Day Quarantine Upon Arrival to Marine Corps Recruit Depot
All new recruits will be medically screened and quarantined for 14 days after arrival to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. At MCRD San Diego, facilities on-site house the recruits, while at Parris Island, the Depot has contracted with the Citadel in order to house new recruits off-site.
During the quarantine, new recruits will be restricted to their barracks and the chow hall, and their temperature will be taken twice daily during the length of their stay. All of this happens prior to recruits stepping on the famous yellow footprints.
But this is no vacation. As a new recruit in staging, you can expect to have your day filled with classes and instruction on recruit training and military discipline.
With the added quarantine policy, Marine Corps Recruit training is now 15 weeks long, provided each recruit passes their physical fitness tests, written tests, and performs to Marine Corps standards.
Family Day and Graduation Ceremonies
As of July, all Family Day events and graduation ceremonies have been cancelled in order to avoid bringing the Coronavirus aboard the Marine Corps Recruit Depot from a civilian who hasn’t been screened or quarantined.
Recruits are in close quarters throughout the length of Marine Boot Camp, so an outbreak could spread quickly. It’s important to mitigate the chances. However, this doesn’t mean that recruits won’t undergo graduation. They will still receive their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor from their Drill Instructors and march across the parade deck for graduation.
Travel Ban After Marine Boot Camp is Over
Traditionally, new recruits have gone on leave for a period of 7 days after recruit training. Most recruits choose to go home, visit family and friends, and relax before going to the School of Infantry.
But now, recruits will be shipped straight to the School of Infantry for Marine Combat Training and SOI Infantry Training. Until the Department of Defense travel ban is lifted, consider this the new policy.
Does Contracting the Coronavirus Disqualify You from Military Service?
Early guidance from the Department of Defense disqualified anyone who had contracted COVID-19 from enlisting or being commissioned in the United States military.Just last month, this was rescinded.
However, it’s important to note that if you’re still experiencing respiratory distress from a past COVID-19 diagnosis, you may still be permanently disqualified from military service.
If You’re Planning to Enlist, Take Precautions Against COVID-19
You may be in a low-risk group, but if you’re looking to join the Marine Corps, the Coronavirus presents an asymmetrical risk to your career. What does that mean? It means that even though the virus may not be fatal, you could experience lasting damage from COVID-19 that could permanently disqualify you from military service. And if you get a disqualification, most likely that’s the end.
You should follow the CDC guidelines for preventing COVID-19 spread, no matter whether you think the precautions are effective or not. If becoming a United States Marine is important to you, it’s worth the extra steps.
Here’s what the CDC says about stopping Coronavirus spread.
Wash Your Hands Often
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (maybe sing the Marine Corps Hymn if you know it):
- after being in a public place
- after coughing or sneezing
- before eating
- before touching your face (and by the way stop touching your face, your Drill Instructors will get you for this!)
- after playing with pets
- after changing a diaper
If you don’t have soap, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer is a great item to bring to field training to clean your hands prior to eating an MRE, by the way. And you should avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes as much as possible.
Limit Close Contact with Others
In the time before heading to Marine Boot Camp, consider isolating yourself so you avoid contracting the virus. Remember, as a young person death may not be your main concern, but permanently disqualifying you from military service could impact your entire life.
Wear a Face Mask Covering Your Mouth and Nose
It’s not clear whether the spread of Coronavirus is through droplets, coughing, or whether it is airborne. The data keeps changing, so regardless of personal belief it’s important to wear a mask if you’re looking to become a United States Marine. Don’t take the chance at having a lifetime of regret because you weren’t able to enlist.
Exercise and Stay Clean
This isn’t an official guideline, but exercise, cleanliness of your body including hands and face, and clean eating will do wonders for your immune system. Don’t go off the deep end celebrating with booze, or worse, before you ship out. Alcohol and drug use lowers your body’s ability to fight off infection. Plus, you’re going to need to be in good shape for recruit training! It’s not clear whether there is physical fitness in the 2 week quarantine prior to recruit training, so you should be in your best shape prior to arrival.