FAQs: COVID-19 impact to the U.S. Army Reserve

By Army Reserve Strategic Communications | U.S. Army Reserve Command | March 24, 2020

FORT BRAGG, N.C. —

U.S. ARMY COVID-19 HOTLINE: 1-800-984-8523

OCONUS DSN: 312-421-3700 | CONUS DSN: 421-3700

CDC INFORMATION HOTLINE: 1-800-232-4636

 

Scheduled battle assemblies are suspended until further notice. This gives commanders the authority to take appropriate action to ensure the health, safety and welfare of Soldiers, Families, and communities. We encourage all U.S. Army Reserve personnel to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Army Reserve is working to minimize risk to the force to ensure we maintain operational readiness.

The questions below have been submitted by Soldiers to various U.S. Army Reserve social media websites. Here Soldiers may find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Current CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, United Kingdom and Ireland: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, China, Iran, South Korea. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Japan, Israel, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey.

 

QUESTION:  How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect Soldiers’ permanent change of station (PCS) moves and temporary duty (TDY) travel?

ANSWER: The U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) website has published a FAQ document with questions and answers specific to PCS/TDY travel, found here. The HRC website also offers additional guidance on isolation and quarantine. Soldiers can contact HRC’s 24/7 Army Service Center at 1-800-582-5552 for additional help.

 

QUESTION: Where can I find more information on COVID-19, how it spreads, health risks, and how to keep Soldiers, family members and the community safe?

ANSWER: All of these questions are answered on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, on their Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions page.

 

QUESTION: What is the difference between isolation and quarantine and what should a Soldier do if identified for quarantine or isolation due to either personal concern or medical assessment?

ANSWER: Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. U.S. Army Reserve members must contact their chain of command immediately via phone and/or email if it’s determined that a quarantine or isolation is necessary. Visit the CDC website for guidance on isolation and quarantine. Refer to a medical professional to determine the recommended length of quarantine or isolation. Once a medical professional has determined a patient has completed quarantine or isolation period, members should contact their chain of command about further instructions. Ensure the home is equipped with everything needed for the recommended length of time (i.e. food, water, clothes, hygiene items, medications, etc.). The CDC has published a page with tips and information on how to prepare your family. To prevent the virus from spreading, keep distance from other people, prohibit unnecessary visitors, and wash hands frequently. Do a daily wipe-down of “high-touch” surfaces, such as doorknobs, tabletops, toilets and phones. It’s also wise to restrict contact with pets until researchers know more about whether animals can contract the virus. Those who cannot avoid contact with pets should wear a face mask and wash hands before and after interacting with the pet. The biggest lifestyle change in quarantine is the lack of mobility. The CDC recommends restricting activities outside the home, except when going to visit a medical facility for treatment and necessary care. The CDC website recommends, “Consider 2-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, food and other essentials. Know how to get food delivered if possible.” For additional quarantine and isolation guidance specific to U.S. Army members, visit the HRC website.

 

QUESTION: What is the current telework guidance for the U.S. Army Reserve full time staff?

ANSWER: Commanders have all the authority they need to implement policies and provide specific guidance to their service members and staffs of their individual organizations as the situation continues to evolve. In order to lower risk of transmission in the works place, commanders are encouraged to execute local telework policies even if a determination has not been made to close the facility. Army Reserve Commanders at echelon should minimize aggregation of personnel in order to prevent the spread of the COVID19 virus and sustain unit mission essential operations. Military leaders and supervisors should employ maximum flexibility and innovation in executing mission essential tasks and unit operations in order to sustain unit and Soldier readiness within the construct of existing policy and procedures. Military leaders and supervisors should ensure Soldiers and Army Civilians teleworking have the proper equipment to conduct proper accountability and work assignment. All personnel and supervisors are required to complete the required telework training and execute a telework agreement.

 

QUESTION: How far can a Soldier travel if they are currently on leaves during the stop movement period?

ANSWER: Service members may take leave only in the local area. This is done to limit the spread of and potential exposure to COVID-19. Exceptions may be given for compelling cases where the travel is: (1) determined to be mission essential; (2) necessary for humanitarian reasons; or (3) warranted due to extreme hardship. Each U.S. Army Reserve member should check with their unit’s chain of command on their specific limitations and the local leave policy in place.

 

QUESTION: What should Soldiers do if they are currently on temporary duty (TDY) attending a military school or training away from home?

ANSWER: Soldiers are not permitted to travel to any training during the stop movement period with the exception of recruits from Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) through Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and back to their first unit of assignment. Soldiers currently in training in a TDY status will remain at their respective locations and complete training.  Soldiers with follow on courses at their current school locations will stay and attend their follow on courses.  Soldiers who have completed training will contact their units to coordinate travel to their home of record until further notice. If a Soldier previously completed a training phase and returned home, but has an upcoming reservation to attend a subsequent phase, the Soldier is not authorized to travel during the stop movement period.

 

QUESTION: Can Soldiers return to their home station upon completion of their current training course?

ANSWER: Yes. All U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers who are based in the United States who are attending military training courses will return to their home station (including Alaska, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and Hawaii) upon completion of their training course.

 

QUESTION: How does the current “stop movement” affect Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians (DAC) on leave or Soldiers requesting emergency leave?

ANSWER: The Secretary of the Army has delegated to the first general officer (GO) or member of the senior executive service (SES) in the chain of command the authority to approve emergency leave. Additionally, Soldiers are only authorized local leave as defined by local commanders.  Check with your chain of command for further guidance.

 

QUESTION: How much longer will battle assemblies be canceled?

ANSWER: Battle assemblies are temporarily suspended – not cancelled – until further notice. Unit commanders still maintain the authority to take appropriate actions to balance training and readiness requirements while taking protective measures to ensure the health, safety and welfare of Soldiers, Families and communities. Check with your chain of command for the latest on battle assembly schedules. 

 


 

QUESTION: A lot of Soldiers depend financially on pay from their battle assemblies. Are there alternative training opportunities for Soldiers?

ANSWER: U.S. Army Reserve commanders have the authority to approve rescheduled training (RST) opportunities for their Soldiers. Check with your unit for potential RSTs.

 

QUESTION: How will this impact Reserve Component Soldiers and their TRICARE benefits?

ANSWER: TRICARE service providers are aware of concerns being voiced by Soldiers, including members of the U.S. Army Reserve. Payments for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) are paid directly by the service member’s specified credit card or bank account, not from a drill pay deduction. As such, a member would not have their TRS impacted due to a change in drill status, unless the member specifically chooses to stop payment. TRICARE is working options regarding support and relief for members who experience a financial hardship and are unable to pay their premiums as a result. Each Soldier is encouraged to call TRICARE experts in their respective region to address individual concerns and answer specific healthcare questions: https://tricare.mil/ContactUs/CallUs/AllContacts  

 

QUESTION: How will suspended battle assemblies affect Reserve Component Soldiers and their Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) benefits?

ANSWER: If a service member is already enrolled in SGLI and does not attend battle assembly for a period of time, SGLI will continue to provide coverage. Premium payment for SGLI coverage is deducted from the Soldiers military payment and reflected on the Leave and Earning Statement (LES). The Soldier will incur a debt for each month the premium was not paid. Once a Soldier returns to duty and receives military payment, the total debt will be collected from the Soldier’s LES.

 

QUESTION: What about annual training events scheduled within the continental United States in April and May?

ANSWER: In accordance with the Department of Defense latest travel restriction, most training events are suspended or postponed. However, Army Reserve Soldiers and civilian employees should contact their chain of command for the latest information on their upcoming collective training exercises.

 

QUESTION: What if the local store or commissary runs out of hand sanitizer?

ANSWER: The best way to sanitize your hands is still with the use of soap and hot water, for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% Isopropyl Alcohol as the preferred form of hand hygiene. You can make your own hand sanitizer by using 70%-91% isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel. For additional information, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/hcp-hand-sanitizer.html  

 

QUESTION: How will the suspension of battle assemblies affect Army Reserve Soldiers who are trying to complete enough points toward a good retirement year?

ANSWER: It is still possible for U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to complete a qualifying year for retirement – also known as a “good year” – without attending all scheduled battle assemblies. A qualifying year of service for non-regular retired pay is a full year during which a Reserve Component member is credited with a minimum of 50 retirement points. Soldiers are awarded 15 membership points for each year in an active status. Additionally, Soldiers earn points for active duty orders (one point per day on active duty) and for inactive duty training (IDT). An IDT period will be either four hours in length for one retirement point or eight hours in length for two retirement points. Check with your chain of command for the latest on battle assembly schedules and check with unit administrator or personnel section for an accurate calculation of current year-to-date retirement points. For additional information on retirement points please visit the HRC Website: https://www.hrc.army.mil/content/Recording%20and%20Reporting%20Retirement%20Points

 

QUESTION: Will military schools reschedule Soldiers’ attendance at Professional Military Education (PME) courses that have been cancelled or postponed? 

ANSWER: Soldiers scheduled to attend courses or schools in the United States less than six months in duration who are stationed in CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice countries will postpone their schooling until further notice. Soldiers scheduled to attend training in the United States for six months or longer will arrive 14 days early to TRADOC identified sites for screening and quarantine. Army Reserve Soldiers and civilian employees should contact their chain of command to find out how their individual school reservations are affected, and work with the unit’s training NCO and the schoolhouse to reschedule reservations for a later date.

 

(Updated March 26, 2020)