Army raises health threat to its highest level for crisis response teams

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Andre Lewis with the 7th Mission Support Command asks COVID-19-related screening questions to occupants of a car before they can enter Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, March 19, 2020.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2020

Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.

STUTTGART, Germany — The Army has placed contingency response forces under the highest “Delta” health threat level, requiring them to stay in their homes to protect their health as the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly around the world, the service announced.

The health threat level was also raised at Army bases around the world to the second highest level — “Charlie”— meaning only essential personnel will be granted access, the Army said Tuesday.

Tougher measures were put in place for crisis response units, who may be needed on short notice for a global contingency.

The Army maintains forces, such as elements within the 82nd Airborne, that are ready to deploy worldwide within 18 hours.

“To further protect our contingency response forces from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, we are taking extra precautions and placing them under an HPCON Delta status,” said Gen. James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army. “We are committed to maintaining the Army's fighting strength by reducing the spread of this virus while simultaneously maintaining dynamic force employment capabilities.”

Health Protection Condition Delta is the highest military threat level. In this case, it means soldiers are expected to remain at home for extended periods of time and movement in the community may be restricted, the Army said.

Under HPCON Charlie, access will be restricted to Army installations in the U.S. and overseas.

“Installations will limit all access to essential personnel only and will limit the numbers of access points. All unit personnel are expected to follow all social distancing guidance to continue protecting our force,” the Army said.

As of Tuesday, there were at least 321 coronavirus cases within the global U.S. military community, compared to 59 on March 17, Pentagon data show. A little more than half of the cases – 174 – are in troops and the rest in family members, Defense Department civilians and contractors.

Cases overseas, especially in Europe, have also increased. U.S. European Command said Wednesday that there are now 72 members of the military community oversees who are infected.

Most of the cases in Europe are in Stuttgart, home to EUCOM’s headquarters. As of Wednesday morning, Army officials in Stuttgart reported 44 coronavirus cases, up from 33 a day earlier. In addition, 441 members of the military community in Stuttgart also are in self-isolation or self-quarantine.

Twitter: @john_vandiver