Pentagon issues stop movement order for all service members, DOD civilians overseas in effort to combat coronavirus

U.S. soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade connect a bridge section during a rafting exercise on Namhan River, South Korea, on Feb. 27, 2019.


By KAT BOUZA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2020

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In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a 60-day stop movement order for all service members, Defense Department civilians and sponsored family members stationed overseas.

A DOD memo released Wednesday said the order is expected to “impact exercises, deployments, redeployments and other global force management activities.”

According to the announcement, the order will likely affect about 90,000 service members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days. However, the order “is not expected to impact the continued drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be complete within 135 days following the signed agreement,” the memo stated.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon reported the first positive test result for coronavirus within its own hallways. A Marine stationed at the Pentagon tested positive on Tuesday.

“The Marine is in isolation at his home and will undergo further assessment by health professionals. His last day in the Pentagon was March 13,” according to a Pentagon news release Thursday.

The Marine isolated himself after an immediate family member showed coronavirus symptoms, according to the Pentagon. “Once he became ill, he contacted his assigned medical facility,” according to the release.

His workspace has been cleaned by a Pentagon response team and a thorough contact investigation is underway to mitigate risk and preserve the health of the workforce at the Pentagon.

The stop-movement order is the latest step by the Pentagon to address the global coronavirus pandemic, and builds upon previously enacted restrictions on foreign travel, permanent change of station moves, temporary duty and personal leave.

The Defense Department said Wednesday that 227 service members have the coronavirus — an increase of 53 cases in one day.

Of the 435 confirmed cases within the DOD community, 81 civilian workers, 67 military dependents and 40 contractors have contracted the virus. One person — a contractor — has died.

Exceptions to the stop order may be granted on a case-by-case basis with command approval, the memo stated, for issues such as obtaining medical treatment, mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons. Other authorized exceptions include scheduled deployments or redeployments of U.S. Navy vessels, provided they have met the restriction of movement requirements currently in place.

“This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of Coronavirus Disease to protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” according to the memo.

Stars and Stripes staff member Joseph Ditzler contributed to this report.