By Brad Rhen
| June 12, 2020
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Cody Greenawalt provides security during a convoy and IED avoidance training exercise. Countering improvised explosive devices is an essential skill that 28th ECAB Soldiers must fine-tune prior to deployment. (Photo by Capt. Travis Mueller)
Now that Pennsylvania has begun a phased reopening from the COVID-19 crisis, Fort Indiantown Gap has begun gradually increasing operations.
The installation never completely closed; several facilities and recreation areas closed, some training and events were cancelled and some employees worked from home, but the installation remained open.
“Although operations were reduced and some things were canceled, Fort Indiantown Gap never closed,” said garrison commander Col. Lane Marshall. “The primary focus shifted from training to supporting our Soldiers and Airmen who were serving the citizens of the Commonwealth in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.”
The 17,000-plus-acre installation, which is home to the headquarters of both the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, is one of the busiest National Guard training sites in the country, with more than 120,000 service members training here annually. Fort Indiantown Gap also hosts training for law enforcement and other state and federal agencies.
While some training was canceled, training didn't completely cease. For example, the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade completed pre-deployment training at Fort Indiantown Gap for a previously scheduled rotation to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
The training, which included things like weapons qualifications, grenade training and land-navigation training was done while taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and wearing facemasks, to the extent practical.
Additionally, Pennsylvania National Guard members who were activated for COVID-19 support missions received various types of medical training at the installation’s Medical Battalion Training Site and Medical Simulation Training Center.
Now that it is beginning to ramp up operations, the training center is anticipating an influx of training requests from units attempting to salvage their training year, and the range scheduling section has already started receiving training requests.
The directorate of plans, training, mobilization and security under the guidance of the garrison commander, has been developing courses of action aimed at maximizing usage of Fort Indiantown Gap's training assets while incorporating measures to mitigate the potential for the spread of COVID-19 among the training population and the installation’s permanent party Soldiers and Airmen and employees.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure units can train in a safe manner so they can maintain readiness and they are able to complete their missions when called upon,” Marshall said.