It’s a common grumbling among Marines that each new generation has it easier — now as COVID-19 continues to rampage the country recruits at boot camp are getting a little extra personal space as the depots try to implement social distancing.
Boot camp aboard the depots continue for the most part normal as drill instructors tear into recruits on the daily.
But the depots are trying to implement social distancing guidelines when possible. That includes spacing out bunks in the squad bays aboard Parris Island to allow six feet of separation or assigning a recruit to every other bunk at the San Diego depot, according to statements from both Marine recruit depots.
Capt. Martin Harris, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, says the smaller companies during this time of year allows the recruits to space out between every other bunk, providing extra space for the recruits to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Spacing out bunks adds a little bit of extra room for maneuvering for heavy-eyed recruits scrambling early in the morning to get on line as the drill instructor readies them for morning chow and follow-on training.
Capt. Bryan McDonnell, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, said the South Carolina-based recruit depot had also opened up chow facilities to give recruits and training companies more space.
No recruits aboard the depots at San Diego or Parris Island have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, according to emailed statements from both recruit depots.
That may be a result of preliminary screening efforts occurring at the depots and prior to shipping to boot camp during in-processing at Military Entrance Processing Stations.
“Recruits are being screened for high-risk of exposure and fever or common flu-like symptoms prior to shipping to recruit training and MEPS and again once they arrive,” Harris told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
“The medical staff here is working very hard to ensure that each recruit is screened and understands the symptoms and preventative measures,” Harris said.
Parris Island says it has “modified” Sunday religious services to include prerecording sermons to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
“Social distancing is occurring where possible during outdoor training, in classrooms, religious services, and the recruit mess hall, which is made possible because of the smaller companies this time of year.” Harris said about efforts aboard the San Diego depot.
At Parris Island, classes that run up to training day 11 and are normally taught as a company at the Recruit Training Facility, are now being taught in the company squad bay by an academic instructor.
“This is in an effort to reduce the overall size of gatherings as well as reduce the use of the Recruit Training Facility by first-phase recruits,” McDonnell told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
Moreover, McDonnell says drill instructors aboard Parris Island continue to teach and enforce good hygiene that includes “mandatory handwashing before every meal, the carrying of hand sanitizer by every recruit, and nightly showers.”
Harris explained that aboard the San Diego depot disinfection operations are continuing at a “cyclic rate” focused on shared and commonly touched surfaces. Harris detailed that laundry is running to ensure utilities are washed and changed daily and classrooms are disinfected prior to and at the end of classes.
“The U.S. Marine Corps has a legal and moral obligation to the nation to man, train and equip a Marine Corps,” Harris said.
“Recruiting and recruit training plays a big part in fulfilling that promise, which is why we will continue our efforts to find, ship, and train young men and women according to existing plans, while constantly revisiting our operations as circumstances evolve to ensure we are proactively taking measures to protect the health and well-being of our recruits, Marines, their families, and communities where we work,” Harris said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.