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Vance Air Force Base graduates, families able to move on to next assignments despite pandemic

By JAMES NEAL | The Enid News & Eagle | Published: May 15, 2020

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ENID, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — Graduates of undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base and their families are able to move on to their next assignments, despite a military-wide "stop movement order" to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon issued its "stop movement order" on March 16, restricting military members and their families from making regularly scheduled moves from one base to another — commonly referred to as "PCS moves," for permanent change of station.

That order originally was scheduled to expire this week, but was extended by the Pentagon on April 20 through at least the end of June.

While the "stop movement order" may be holding up many military families' moves, recent graduates from pilot training and their families still are able to move on to their next duty stations, because their ongoing training has been deemed essential, the 71st Operations Group at Vance confirmed this week.

"When the students complete SUPT (Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training), they earn their wings and continue on to their major weapon system aircraft training," according to the operations group. "There they will learn how to employ their newly assigned aircraft."

AETC confirmed Wednesday dependents are being moved concurrently with pilots moving on to the next stage of flying training, but added "coordination between losing and gaining commander and/or owning organization is required before departure and organizations must be updated on travel itinerary."

"It is highly recommended units and students contact training squadrons and locations to check on any changes or new requirements that may arise during the on-going COVID-19 response," according to an AETC statement.

In order to increase safety for military members and their families during PCS moves, the Pentagon released new requirements for contract movers May 6.

Now, all contract movers must adhere to all CDC COVID-19 health protection measures while in a military member's residence. Those measures include wearing face coverings, cleaning surfaces, sanitizing their hands often and having a minimal number of people in the house at a time.

The May 6 guidance also allows a military member to "deny entry to moving personnel or question them about adhering to health protection protocols," according to an Air Force statement. "They also are specifically empowered to terminate the move entirely if they feel the moving crew is compromising their safety. The move would be rescheduled at a later date."

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