The top Marine said Sunday that Marines “must continue to train” to prepare for the next crisis despite an ongoing viral pandemic that has canceled exercises and delayed planned U.S. military rotations across the globe.
The Marine Corps has come under criticism for keeping barbershops open, pushing field exercises and continuing with recruit training as COVID-19 continues to disrupt military operations and planning.
“We train so that we can be ready to go,” Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger, said in a video posted Sunday. “We never get the chance to pick the next crisis, where it happens, when it happens.”
An outbreak at the Parris Island, South Carolina, recruit depot has temporarily halted training and the arrival of new recruits.
Marine Corps recruiting efforts have now gone virtual following an outcry from Marine recruiters that the Marines were jeopardizing the health and safety of service members.
Service level exercises across the Corps have in some places been suspended — a large-scale air and ground integration training evolution in Arizona was cut short . The 1st Marine Division says its Marines will no longer train aboard the Twentynine Palms, California, training center for the time being.
Marines are stranded in Norway, Italy and Spain as incoming and outgoing deployment rotations have been grounded due to a 60-day overseas Defense Department training ban. A Marine rotation to Australia is also on hold.
Berger says he’s been asked why the Corps can’t just “stop training” or why do the Marines need to continue “recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus."
Berger responded in the video that when Marines and the Navy are called up by the president to act “we respond immediately."
“So we must continue to train," the top Marine said. The nation relies on the Corps “especially in tough times,” he said.
Berger has invested the authority to make COVID-19 decisions with local commanders. Some argue that policy places pressure on commanders to carry on with training despite known risks in fear of upsetting the boss.
Commanders have made “great decisions” and that he had their support to make the right calls, Berger said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.