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The Navy Region Southwest All Hands Message, Corona Virus (COVID-19) Update: March 4, 2022 stated, “While COVID-19 is still a significant concern… leadership has implemented some new instructions based on the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and CDC locality information.”
In March 2022, indoor mask wearing is not required for Department of Defense personnel or visitors. Additionally, the medical screening program is not required for facilities onboard NAS Pensacola, including IWTC Corry Station. This is a significant step toward “post pandemic” normalcy for staff members and students who experienced extreme restrictions and operational challenges during the pandemic.
“I am glad to have the mask restrictions lifted” said U.S. Navy Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Raymond Donato, an IWTC Corry Station Instructor. “It is difficult to project your voice to a classroom while wearing a mask.”
In March 2020, northwest military bases tightened COVID-19 mitigation protocols by implementing Health Protection Condition Charlie (HPCON C), which is the fourth most stringent level on the five-level Department of Defense protocol for handling disease outbreaks.
During HPCON Charlie, most regional bases were placed in an “official business only” posture that only allowed access to base for essential activities, such as medical care and mission essential operations. In addition to limited base access, commands were instructed to use teleworking to the highest extent possible.
All information warfare training courses offered onboard Corry Station were considered essential, and training operations continued. “Even before COVID, we were undermanned,” said U.S. Coast Guard Information Specialist 1st Class Zachary Testa. “During COVID, we had additional restrictions as well as an increase in the number of students and course convenes.”
For the nearly 2,500 students residing onboard Corry Station, HPCON Charlie meant they were not permitted to enter the majority of private businesses for any reason. Furthermore, base resources, such as dining facilities, recreational activities, and morale events were limited due to social distancing protocols.
“Students’ mental health and overall well-being were at an all-time low during the base lockdown,” said U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician 1st Class Savannah Tynes, an instructor at IWTC Corry Station. “Unfortunately, that comes with restrictions that needed to be followed to ensure the health and safety of the staff members, their families, and our students.”
The command’s responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of Sailors onboard Corry Station constituted additional duties for staff members and instructors. Some of those tasks included ensuring that staff and students were medically screened upon entrance to base facilities, daily extensive cleaning of classrooms, and enforcing social distance guidelines base-wide.
“The first positive case we had in the schoolhouse, we had to clean the classroom thoroughly to prevent the spread of infection,” explained Donato. “We wore medical suits, cleaned with bleach and blocked off the space for three days.”
A reduction of mitigations for COVID-19 has allowed IWTC Corry Station staff members to reflect on the pandemic protocols, and many agree that they were challenged, both personally and professionally.
“I had a Sailor re-enlisting for $90K and the day before his reenlistment, he tested positive for COVID-19. I worked with the chain of command and executed the reenlistment via FaceTime and digital signature,” said Chief Navy Career Counselor David Haeffner. “It forced me to think outside the box, still completing the occupational requirements, only from a different angle.”
“I knew this command was going to be challenging but COVID really put a twist on everyone in the Navy, not only Corry Station,” said Tynes. “As a command I think we handled restrictions and precautions effectively and in doing so we were able to still get Sailors to the Fleet.”
While command staff and students hope to see IWTC Corry Station return to normal operation for good, all Department of Defense installations are subject to increased protocols should the COVID-19 community levels rise. Additional information on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention community levels can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html.
IWTC Corry Station is a part of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT). With four schoolhouse commands, a detachment, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains over 22,000 students every year, delivering trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.
Center for Information Warfare Training Public Affairs – CIWT_PAO@us.navy.mil
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