The primary mission at Fort Benning is to train thousands of soldiers each year in defense of the nation.
For the U.S Army to accomplish that missing in these unprecedented times, Mission 1-A is to keep those on Fort Benning COVID free.
New Fort Benning commander, Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe is laser-focused on keeping his soldiers, staff and anyone who ventures on post free of the COVID virus,
And his directives will impact people on — and off — post.
“Priority, No. 1 every soldier, civilian, family member, contractor who has access to Fort Benning is to be aware of every capability we have individually to make choices to keep yourself COVID free,” Donahoe told News 3 in a one-on-one interview.
That’s a lot of people. At any time, there are 15,000 soldiers training on post; there are 12,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Benning, and another 7,000 civilians working on post. Then you throw 30,000 or more dependants into the mix.
Fort Benning has not been immune to the virus. In early June, post officials confirmed that 142 soldiers in a basic training unit tested positive for COVID.
Donahoe assumed command from Maj. Gen. Gary Brito last Friday. In his first days as commander, he issued an order designed to limit the spread of the virus.
“We have told everybody who wants access to Fort Benning — family member, uniformed, contractor, DA civilian — we require you not to eat in restaurants that are sit down inside restaurants,” he said. “You can eat outside. You can pick up food to go. Or you can get curbside pickup. We don’t want you right now eating inside. We want to limit the exposure. If you have a gym membership downtown, if they have an outdoor workout facility, We require you not to do indoor workouts.”
Donahoe says they are depending on the Fort Benning personnel to use individual discipline to comply with the order.
“The enforcement should be the individual discipline of the people who are coming,” he said. “You should enforce it yourself. If you got access to Fort Benning as one of our teammates, that should be enough.”
He comes to Columbus from South Korea. He spent four months confined to Camp Humphreys earlier this year. He knows this fight is a hard one.
“Fighting COVID is all about stamina and discipline. If you are a United States Army soldier or associated with the U.S. Army, you pride yourself on your personal discipline,” he said. “You pride yourself on your ability to withstand long periods of privation.”
You can watch the full interview with Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe here: