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NEWS | Jan. 8, 2021

MEDCoE takes measures to minimize COVID-19 transmission following Holiday Block Leave

By Jose E. Rodriguez U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence cadre, leaders and medical personnel screened approximately 3,000 Advanced Individual Training Soldiers returning to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston from their holiday block leave between Dec. 30 and Jan. 4.

During their holiday block leave, or HBL, trainees had the opportunity to spend the holiday season with their families and loved ones in various locations across the continental United States. For many, this leave is was their first chance to return home after joining the military.

The medical screening is part of the ongoing efforts by MEDCoE and the U.S. Army to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Returning Soldiers had their temperatures checked and were asked detailed medical questions to ascertain their health status. Soldiers needing additional screening were evaluated by on-site medical providers and sent to another location for COVID-19 testing.

The HBL Reintegration Testing Cell consisted of a joint effort by MEDCoE providers and staff in the Force Health Protection Cell and Support Staff from the Navy Medical Training Support Center, or NMTSC.

Despite initial screening, all returning AIT Soldiers are under a mandatory two-week restriction of movement, or ROM, as an additional precaution to mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19. During this time, Soldiers will continue their training virtually before returning to the classroom once cleared from ROM.

Pfc. Amaya Cerutti, an AIT Soldier from Raleigh North Carolina, completed Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in December before taking HBL.  Her first stop upon arrival at JBSA was MEDCoE’s mandatory HBL screening. 

Cerutti said she appreciated the measures MEDCoE was taking to ensure everyone’s safety and was excited to get screened so that she can begin her training to become a 68W Combat Medic.

“I think the medical screening is good since so many of us are coming from different states with different regulations for COVID,” Cerutti said. “I’m going to be quarantined for two weeks before we start any of the fun stuff, but I am looking forward to the phase where you actually learn the nitty-gritty on the MOS specific curriculum.”

Cerutti, who was delayed entry to BCT for several months as part of the Army’s COVID-19 mitigation said she has aspired to become a combat medic for a very long time and thinks it will be worth the wait.

“I know we get to learn EMT, clinical, and labs, but the combat training is what I am looking forward to the most.”

68W Combat Medics, the second-largest military occupational specialty in the Army, administer emergency medical care at the point of injury in both combat and humanitarian situations. New recruits attend 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, designed to turn civilians into Soldiers, at various locations. Trainees then attend 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training at the MEDCoE.