As the military works to adjust to Covid-19, the Army three-star in charge of personnel said on Thursday that soldiers and their families can apply to stay where they are instead of moving to their next duty station.
Last week, the Defense Department released guidance that put a 60-day stop to any travel, including permanent change of stations (PCS), “to, from, or through” countries that had been hit hardest by the Covid-19 outbreak, including most countries in Europe, South Korea, Iran, and China. A few days later, the Pentagon stopped domestic travel until May 11.
There are some exceptions to the travel restrictions, for things like mission-essential travel and cases that result in extreme hardship for the service member or their family.
But Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, told reporters on Thursday (during an over-the-phone roundtable discussion — social distance, people!) that soldiers are allowed to apply to stay at their current duty station instead of PCSing, “if that works best for them and their family.”
“The intent is to help the soldiers and families get settled, get ready for the post-Covid-19 world that we’ll be living in, and if it works best for them to stay where they are,” barring anything mission-essential in their assignment, then they should be able to stay put, Seamands said.
The idea is reflective of something Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville brought up last fall, at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington — if families want to stay put longer, then the Army should let them.
“Now there’s some things you have to do, for career development, and there’s certain areas where you’re better off doing that, but part of the future that we see with the talent management system is we do look at your preferences, which is kind of blasphemous in the Army — where you want to go and what you want to do — but if we can accommodate that, why shouldn’t we?” McConville said.
Seamands said the approval for applications to stay at the current duty station will of course differ depending on the job the soldier has to do, and readiness needs still have to be met. But the “intent is to … make sure soldiers and families get the stability that they want if they choose not to proceed with the orders.”