There are fewer recruits due to COVID-19, but they have the same hard training Navy, Marine commanders say

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The global pandemic caused by the rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused both the Navy and Marine Corps to take precautionary measures to protect new recruits at boot camp and schoolhouses.

Company sizes have shrunk, recruits have to spend 14 days in quarantine prior to entering training and recruits don face masks as they stand on the infamous Marine Corps yellow footprints or have their gear issued.

But despite these steps, and the chaos caused by the potentially deadly virus, recruits in both the Navy and Marine Corps are still receiving the same training recruits would under normal circumstances, officials said.

“Training is being altered to comply with COVID-19 protocols set by the CDC, no training standards program instructions or graduation requirements are being altered or reduced,” Maj. Gen.William F. Mullen, the commanding general for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday.

The annual physical fitness test that has been temporarily suspended throughout the Fleet Marine Force is still a requirement for boot camp along with follow-on training schools, Mullen said as an example of one of the standards that remains for Marine recruits.

Rear Adm. Milton J. Sands, III, who leads the Naval Service Training Command, echoed the Marine’s comments at the Tuesday briefing.

“Each new sailor is trained as part of a team and inculcated into the fundamentals of the Navy’s core values,” Sands said.

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“They’re tough, well prepared and excited to join the fleet,” Sands said of the recruits leaving the Navy’s Recruit Training Command Great Lakes in Chicago.

Both boot camps were forced to reduce the number of recruits they plan on shipping in 2020 due pandemic, the officials said.

Mullen said it is still unknown exactly how many fewer Marines are being trained, adding that the size of the squad bays are the current limiting factor to company size.

For recruits trained at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, companies are limited to 325 recruits, Mullen told reporters.

For male Marine Corps recruits being trained at Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, companies are maxed out at 454 recruits, while their female recruit counterparts have a max company size of 120 recruits, Mullen said.

The Navy has sent more than 8,100 hundred new sailors to the fleet in 2020 and currently has 6,700 recruits going through basic training, the admiral said.

As the service has adjusted to the new safety regulations it has started increasing the number of recruits sent to Great Lakes, and is currently sending more than 1,200 new recruits to boot camp every week, Sands said.

Due to the high number of future sailors being trained, Sands is optimistic the Navy will be able to reach its fiscal year 2020 goal of 40,800 new sailors trained and sent to the fleet.

“I’m immensely proud of not just the recruits, but the recruit division commanders, instructors and other staff who have continued to produce sailors to the fleet,” Sands said.

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