CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Somewhere in the U.S. sits a poolee - the title given to future U.S. Marine Corps recruits - patiently awaiting their report date to either Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., or San Diego, wondering how the COVID-19 situation would affect them. Due to events surrounding COVID-19 the Marine Corps organized Task Force Commitment to ensure the health and safety of recruits and training personnel aboard the depots.
The task force includes Marines from throughout the II Marine Expeditionary Force, many which are from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Working out of The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., they are “providing additional measures in response to COVID-19,” according to Maj. Richard Martinez, the officer in charge for Task Force Commitment.
“The Marine corps has implemented a 14-day staging period for every poolee that would arrive at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island or San Diego,” he added.
“They are providing the necessary supervision and also that first exposure, outside of a recruiter, of what a Marine is or how they should act.” Maj. Richard Martinez, Task Force Commitment OIC
The task force has been supporting recruit receiving operations since mid-April. It is one of the many efforts the Marine Corps has adapted to combat the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus, especially at recruit training. Although a key strategy, the 14-day isolation period is supplemented by the wearing of face masks and the practice of social distancing, along with providing hand sanitizing/washing stations since the release of official guidance from The Center for Disease Control – all efforts implemented at Marine Corps installations throughout the U.S.
“In addition to all of the measures the recruit depot is implementing, this is another layer to ensure they are cleared before they get started,” said Martinez.
Marines managing the staging of poolees have already witnessed positive results of their operation. During one of their first iteration they received some poolees which initially tested positive for COVID-19, a situation which could have gone unnoticed without the current quarantine process.
“We were able to isolate those poolees and make sure it didn’t spread,” said Sgt. Samuel Whitehead, a platoon sergeant with India Company, V36, currently serving as a watch commander for Task Force Commitment. “Because we are able to mitigate that and make sure those poolees got to recruit training safely we are able to ensure training continues.”
The efforts of the Marines also go beyond disease prevention. One consequence of the 14-day quarantine is the day-to-day interaction with Marines prior to commencing their 13-weeks of rigorous training.
“They are providing the necessary supervision and also that first exposure outside of a recruiter of what a Marine is or how they should act,” said Martinez. “Every day they are interacting with them they are ensuring that they are better postured to undertake the rigors of recruit training.”
This exposure has resulted in recruits not only better prepared for recruit training but also future Marines ready for more challenges, according to Whitehead.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Rebecca Floto
Poolees are medically tested for COVID-19 at The Citadel, a public military college temporarily utilized to stage poolees for a 14-day observation period in Charleston, S.C., May 5, 2020.
“The majority of the after action we’ve received is these recruits catch on a lot faster,” said Whitehead. “They already understand basic customs and courtesies and that allows drill instructors to go at a quicker pace, which ultimately means [follow on training] and the fleet get a better Marine.”
But the challenges don’t only benefit the recruits. According to Whitehead this experience has had an effect on the readiness of Marines and poolees alike.
“It’s been a triple win scenario,” said Whitehead. “The first is we’re stopping COVID from spreading. Second, these poolees and recruits have more time to develop, and third the Marines that come down here are being tested in our abilities to maintain professionalism and do duties outside of what we normally do which will be a force multiplier when we get back to our units.”
Despite the disruption COVID-19 has caused throughout the world Marines continue to train and maintain readiness. The combined disease prevention efforts of recruit training personnel and the Marines assigned to Task Force Commitment ensure Marines continue to be made.
“Recruit training is still going because the task force is here,” said Martinez. “It is a huge effort from all across.”