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Army stops unit rotations to combat training centers

Soldiers conduct fire operations during Decisive Action Rotation 20-05 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, on March 11, 2020. Army combat training centers become the latest to cancel operations because of the coronavirus.

CPL. ROLLE ANTOINE/U.S. ARMY

By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 18, 2020

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The 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard will not travel to the National Training Center in California next month as scheduled, as Army combat training centers become the latest to cancel operations because of the coronavirus.

The Army announced Wednesday that it will adjust combat training center rotations to protect soldiers, allied partners and service civilians participating in training events. Service officials will continue to evaluate the situation as conditions change. The postponement follows a Defense Department update Wednesday that 89 members of the military community have tested positive for the virus. That includes 49 service members, three of which are hospitalized because of the virus.

"Although we are adjusting the training calendar, the Army combat training centers will continue to focus on improving unit readiness by providing highly realistic, stressful, joint and combined-arms training across the full spectrum of conflict," Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the Army’s deputy chief of staff of operations, plans and training, said in a statement Wednesday.

The Washington National Guard brigade was scheduled to arrive at the training center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in late April, said Joseph Siemandel, spokesman for the Washington National Guard. The state has not activated its Guard to respond to the coronavirus, but this brigade will now be available should the governor chose to do so, he said.

The training rotation was intended to prepare the brigade for potential deployments to Poland, Ukraine or Chile in 2021. Since the training rotation is not a requirement for any of these missions, the deployments could still occur, Siemandel said.

Army combat training centers are used for large scale, simulated combat training and they include the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, Germany. These venues accommodate training exercises for armored, infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams as part of the Army training model.

About 20 to 22 brigade combat teams train annually at the two stateside centers — amounting to more than 60,000 soldiers each year for each training center and a total of more 120,000 soldiers on average annually, according to information provided by the Army public affairs office.

Thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori