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Graduations at Marine Corps boot camp closed to public in wake of coronavirus pandemic

Public graduations at both Marine Corps recruit depots, Officer Candidates School and The Basic School have been canceled in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, Marine Corps officials confirmed.

The decision to end public graduations was made after Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger ordered the Corps to do all it can to avoid large public gatherings, a Marine official said Friday.

“The guidance of the commandant was to minimize to the greatest extent possible large public gatherings,” Capt. Bryan McDonnell, a spokesman for the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, told Marine Corps Times Friday. “By their nature, obviously, graduations are a large public gathering."

For the most part, the graduation ceremonies will continue, but the parents, friends and family, will be told not to show up.

“Your military and civilian leadership are working to protect you and your families from the spread of coronavirus,” Berger said in a video to the fleet posted on DVIDS. “My intent is to preserve the force while we continue the mission.”

McDonnell did say Parris Island canceled its mid-March graduation ceremony because of the timing of the commandant’s directive.

“When the guidance came down we were already in the midst of family day, so we had families aboard the depot who had already traveled here,” McDonnell said.

Because the recruits already were mingled with their families, the Parris Island command decided to cancel the planned Friday graduation and quickly sent the new Marines home with their families on leave.

San Diego was able to get the guidance earlier in the day and send families home before they entered the recruit depot. The depot still held the parade deck graduation Friday with no one in the stands.

The Marine Corps joins the Navy, Air Force and Army in canceling the public aspects of their initial training graduation.

In addition to closing the graduations to the public, the potentially deadly virus has led to the cancellation of numerous air shows, while the USO has cancelled its airport centers and is considering cancelling entertainment tours.

So far at least two Marines have tested positive for the virus ― one in Virginia and one at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California ― while a third is under observation in Camp Pendleton, California, and a Marine dependent has tested positive for the disease aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

“Marines, the commandant and I know how important these graduations are to you and your families,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black said in the video with the commandant.

“However, the current environment requires additional risk mitigation to ensure the safety of our newly graduated Marines and their families."

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