BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
The U.S. Department of Defense has given its base commanders discretion on whether to lift restrictions for “personnel movement and travel,” according to a July 2 release.
Lt. Commander Richard Moore, public affairs officer for Joint Region Marianas told the Journal PCS travel at Naval Base Guam is now possible. “Under the current Department of Defense stop movement order, sailors stationed on Guam are able to execute PCS orders upon receipt of a waiver. Waivers to travel restrictions may be granted in cases where the travel is 1. determined to be mission-essential; 2. necessary for humanitarian reasons; and 3. Warranted due to extreme hardship,” he said.
As to leave, Moore said that is possible, with oversight, after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved a leave exemption for all military on June 29.
The Navy’s rules for implementation came on July 2.
“Personal leave and liberty travel outside of the local area for sailors is now exempt from COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Commanders will conduct a risk assessment of both the travel itinerary and the health status of the sailor desiring to take leave,” Moore said.
The military travel situation is complicated due to a forces-wide backlog that puts travel on a priority basis.
The Navy’s backlog for PCS moves is 42,000 sailors, which is approximately 53% of the Navy’s total moves for this year, according to a U.S. Navy personnel command fact sheet on the PCS restart, on navy.mil.
Despite various restrictions to the movement of staff on-island and access to the base, Andersen Air Force Base can allow PCS or Permanent Change of Stations to occur and for staff to take vacations.
Staff Sgt. Divine Cox of the Andersen Public Affairs office told the Journal that PCS is occurring and that, “As long as the location is a ‘green’ location, leave is allowed.”
Andersen and Naval Base Guam remain at HPCON Charlie — a Health Protection Condition which is also classified as meaning the location is experiencing “sustained community transmission,” of COVID-19.
The U.S. military uses a color coding with green meaning zero transmission, blue HPCon Alpha means there is limited community transmission, and the yellow HPCon Bravo means there is moderate community transmission. After the orange HPCon Charlie, the red HPCon Delta means there is severe transmission.
As of July 2, only 70 of 231 U.S. installations had lifted travel restrictions. That equates to about 30% of U.S. bases, whether they are Air Force, Army, Marine Corps or Naval bases.
Some overseas bases in Japan, Korea, the U.K and Germany have lifted restrictions, according to a July 2 release from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Generally, criteria for lifting travel restrictions are as follows, according to DoD:
“Step 1: Meet state/country Opening Up America Gating Criteria (14-day declining trend in symptoms and cases; no stay at home order)
Step 2: Meet installation criteria (No travel restrictions, HPCON below Charlie, essential services available, quality assurance in place for movers)
Step 3: [Chief medical officer] … or a CCMDR approve lifting travel restrictions for an installation.”
Step 1 and Step 2 criteria should be met before travel restrictions can be lifted, according to the release.
Andersen announced July 2 that it was increasing local restrictions on its personnel and access for all but mission-essential personnel, declaring a public health emergency. Restrictions include various activities at Andersen, dining-in at island restaurants and gathering with non-family members. mbj