90 out of 110 soldiers in a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape course just tested positive for COVID-19

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U.S. Army soldiers conduct survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival training at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., July 26, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tracy McKithern)

U.S. Army soldiers conduct survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival training at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., July 26, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tracy McKithern)

A total of 82 soldiers taking part in survival, evasion, resistance, and escape training along with eight instructors at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), said Janice Burton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

The students are all participating in the Army's Special Forces Qualification Course (Q Course), which lasts roughly 53 weeks, Burton said on Tuesday.

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Burton said all of the students made it through the 19 days of intensive SERE training, which teaches soldiers how to avoid being captured by the enemy and survive in the field. Students also learn how to resist answering questions should they fall into enemy hands.

The students became sick on the very last day of the SERE phase of the Q Course training, Burton said. 

“They had about six hours left to go, and so we pulled them out because the guys reported feeling sick,” Burton told Task & Purpose. “So they missed six hours but they finished the course.”

New York Times reporter Thomas Gibbons-Neff first tweeted on Tuesday that most of the 110 soldiers in the course had tested positive for the coronavirus.

All 90 of the students and instructors are currently quarantined, according to a news release from the special warfare school. The training was terminated after one soldier tested positive for the disease, prompting all of the students to be tested.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, much of the SERE instruction was already being conducted online, the news release said. Students were tested daily for those parts of the training that involved physical interaction among instructors and students.

“The health and wellness of our students and staff is our top priority,” Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, commandant of the school, said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to protect our students and their families.”