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Fort Jackson rolls out changes to graduations as number of coronavirus cases in SC rises

Published: Mar. 10, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Graduating from Fort Jackson Basic Training is a milestone for more than 24 thousand soldiers at the base each year, marking their transition to Advanced Individual Training.

It’s a special time for both soldiers, and their family and friends, but as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in South Carolina Fort Jackson leaders are rolling out new measures to protect the base, which means big changes for many who have plans to attend graduation.

There have been no cases of the coronavirus at Fort Jackson, but leaders are saying they need to take all necessary precautions, which includes canceling family time during graduation.

“It’s like college, he’s starting his career, he put in a lot of effort, and they are sacrificing a lot for all of us,” Madison Keedy, who has a brother graduating at Fort Jackson in a few weeks, said.

The new policy includes canceling all family time during the graduation ceremony, nixing the reunion ceremony, and taking away the pass that allows soldiers to spend the day before graduation on the base with their families.

“There’s a level of anxiety with regard to more cases as we see more cases in the state, I would say we have a high level of confidence knowing this is something we deal with all the time,” Brig General Milford H. Beagle Jr said.

However, for many families who have had hotels and flights booked for months, the change is a tough pill to swallow. Fort Jackson officials said that families will still get to see the graduates for a short time after the graduation at Hilton Field. They will have about an hour with the graduates before the soldiers will return by government transportation to their battalion area to prepare for immediate departure.

“Definitely disappointed, by I understand that our soldiers can’t all be sick, so I understood, but my heart broke for him because I know he was so excited to see the family and especially the food, he wrote about food in almost every single letter,” Keedy said.

Madison Keedy, who lives in Maryland, said it’s the longest her brother has ever been away from home.

“They all are a bit sad because they don’t get to see their families, and that’s kind of part of this final week is they look forward to seeing their families and letting them see the transformation they’ve gone through,” Brig General Milford H. Beagle Jr said.

However, Brig General Milford H. Beagle Jr. said most graduates and soldiers understand that safety comes first.

“Our public will never ask us if we were ready. They will expect it, so when it comes to that, we have to do those mission essential things so no one ever has to ask if we were ready,” Brig General Milford H. Beagle Jr said.

Previous Story: Fort Jackson cancels Family Day activities, changes graduation policy due to coronavirus

Fort Jackson officials haven’t given any timeline on when these changes will end. Officials said that as of Tuesday, they have only tested one person for the coronavirus at Fort Jackson and it came back negative.

This change for graduation is just the most recent precaution the base is taking. Screenings at entry points are in place, asking all of those entering the base about recent travel or exposure to anyone with the coronavirus.

Additionally, these changes come days after the base switched to elbow bumps instead of handshakes and front guards not taking ID cards.

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