At least 67 troops in the US and abroad have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, March 20. Thousands of troops, who've returned from Afghanistan and the middle-east, have been quarantined for two weeks.
As a result of Covid-19 outbreak, military had to slash training of its troops. The Air Force scrapped Red Flag in Alaska, a training exercise for top-gun combat pilots, USA Today reported.
How has the US military been affected by Covid-19 pandemic?
Defender-Europe 20, the major war game in Europe, aimed at containing Russian aggression, stands canceled. 6,000 US troops were deployed for the major exercise, a smaller version of which will now take place, Air Force General Tod Wolters, commander of US European Command, said on Friday. However, the modified drill will achieve less than half the combat tasks.
The National Training Center at Ft Lewis, California, will be used to mimic war conditions of Iraq and Afghanistan, to help troops prepare for combat deployments in the war-torn countries. Troops stationed in Italy and South Korea have been directed to undertake social distancing, to prevent the virus from spreading.
As many as 2,600 troops and civilian employees have been quarantined in Europe. Army has closed its recruiting centers and has reduced the number of recruits in training centers by 50 percent. Six recruits have shown Covid-19 symptoms, according to General James McConville, the Army chief of staff. Army has also suspended training of local troops in Iraq, in the wake of the global pandemic.
Both domestic and international travel of troops and their family members has been either banned or severely restricted, till mid-May. These disruptions will affect the overall readiness of the US military. "All of the readiness processes are so nested that anything disruptive can have cascading effects," according to Brad Carson, a former top personnel official in the Obama administration.
"Coronavirus will affect everything from ship and air frame maintenance to professional military education to military exercises. And readiness has proven hard to achieve in even the best of circumstances, so the possibility of what would be a massive 'stand down' of indeterminate length could be devastating to readiness," he added.
However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper ascertained that the military is ready to manage any national security issue. "I want to assure the American people that the United States military remains ready and capable of meeting all of our national security requirements," Esper said this week.