Fort Wainwright soldiers adapt during pandemic, changes to training and physical exercise

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) During the novel coronavirus pandemic, people are adapting, including soldiers on Fort Wainwright. Soldiers in the 1-24 Infantry Battalion spend most days training or doing maintenance, both of which have changed with social distance guidelines.

Specialist Corey Connolly working on a virtual land navigation training. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

Staff Sergeant Canyon Christopher Scheel, cavalry scout with the 1-24 says they are limiting the amount of people and work, and transitioning some of the soldier's training online. He says they will give the soldiers an assignment for them to do at home on the computer, and some soldiers are completing leadership training online which would normally be in Anchorage.

For land navigation, they have an online simulation they can use to train. “Before we would have a little class on how re-up on land navigation and then they would send us out on this course. They would give us a little briefing, and they would give us a start point... the location of it. We would rummage the woods, catching our pace counts, we would find the points, write it down and continue on to the next points,” said Specialist Corey Connolly, cavalry scout with the 1-24.

Connolly said doing the land navigation training online was challenging at first, “but once you get the hang of it, it’s kind of like being in real life, it’s kind of like virtual reality.”

In some cases, Scheel says they are not able to limit the number of people in a location, in which case they will wear masks and gloves to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. He says they are also not doing formations anymore.

For physical fitness, Scheel says the situation has pushed them to do a lot more outdoor fitness. He says his company is currently doing a competition called the gauntlet, which is ten days of a different workout challenge. “Those workouts are done in as small groups as possible, but we’ll get video footage -- proof that it actually happened. Essentially, [we're] setting goals and trying to see who is the fittest overall in my company,” said Scheel.

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, Scheel says they reduce the amount of per day and limit the number of people.

Scheel says the command has relaxed requirements on haircuts due to salons being required to close, and the close contact needed for a haircut. Soldiers also have specific colors of masks they are allowed to wear with their uniform. He says some spouses have been making masks for the soldiers. “There’s been a lot of people that have really stepped up, providing resources like that,” said Scheel.

Scheel says they have been able to adapt. "It's been strange, but one thing that I have definitely learned is the ability to adapt and overcome in situations like this has definitely made me a better leader, and it's definitely made me better at mitigating risk at home as well,” said Scheel.

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