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Army cancels ROTC Cadet Summer Camp over coronavirus concerns

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Coronavirus has forced the Army to cancel ROTC Cadet Summer Training here, just 12 days before the first of thousands of cadets, soldiers and Army civilians were to arrive at the central Kentucky post.

“We will not host this essential element of the cadet training life cycle, and will conduct collective training in the fall and spring in order to meet our objectives, and to try to contain the COVID-19 virus,” said Maj. Gen. John Evans, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Cadet Command today.

Speaking to reporters from his headquarters by phone, Evans said that all required training “will be decentralized on campus and at military installations throughout the country.”

“Core skills will be addressed on campus, and at nearby military installations, this fall and next spring,” Evans said. To do that, Evans explained that contiguous universities would consolidate resources to train cadets on “basic warrior skills such as rifle marksmanship, treatment of combat casualties, and ‘STX’ (situational training exercise) lanes.”

Evans said such exercises last over a two-day weekend, but said he and his staff will work with universities to give cadets up to 96 hours to conduct the training over a four-day weekend.

Cadet summer training performance has traditionally been one of the factors to determine branch assignment, and active duty or reserve component assignment. Evans said that element has been removed, as it is “the only way we can fairly do that.”

Evans said that shifting this year’s training into next summer was considered, but that was rejected because of “the tyranny of time and space.”

“We don’t have enough time between mid-May and mid-August, and Fort Knox doesn’t have the facilities to handle two cohorts of cadets,” Evans said.

The original dates for cadet summer training had been May 23-Aug. 16, according to USACC spokesman Rich Patterson, “with 11 Regiments training through a 35-day advanced camp cycle, and three Regiments training in a 31-day cycle for the basic camp.”

The forecast for CST 2020 included 7,000 cadets for advanced camp (the cohort of rising college seniors), and 1,900 for the basic camp (rising juniors who decided halfway through their college career to join ROTC, and train to get credit for the first two years of ROTC).

Every year a number of cadets who were injured during CST return after their senior year to complete the commissioning requirement. This year 416 cadets are set to return, and Evans said that the Secretary of the Army has waived the summer camp training requirement. These cadets, and those who are commissioned next year, will be evaluated at their basic branch course to determine what military skills may require remedial training.

Evans and his staff conducted a town hall meeting on Facebook March 26 to update cadets, cadre and family members on the effect of the pandemic on cadet summer training and 2020 commissioning timelines. Evans will speak to the command and local Kentucky officials via Facebook over the next two days.

CST is held every year at Disney Barracks, the area of Fort Knox where armor crewmen and cavalry scouts underwent training before the Armor School moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2011.

To support this effort, more than 5,000 cadre from Cadet Command ROTC detachments, along with regular Army, Reserve and National Guard personnel, come to Fort Knox, Patterson said.

ROTC produces the overwhelming majority of Army lieutenants, followed by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning provides the balance of the Army’s junior officer needs, and the direct commission program brings in doctors, lawyers and ministers.

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