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Local community and Coast Guard families lined Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh avenues in Cape May with American flags, cars and friendly signs, showing pride for the Coast Guard's newest shipmates, whose families are not able to travel to Cape May for graduation ceremonies.

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CAPE MAY - A new recruit class arrived at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May for boot camp April 21, the first in nearly a month since activities changed as a result of COVID-19.

The company, half of its typical size, will undergo 14 days of “restricted movements” before going through an accelerated training session.

“We have instituted a new training program with significant modifications to help ensure the safety and mitigate potential COVID-19 impacts,” Capt. Kathy Felger, the facility's commanding officer, said, in an April 16 announcement.

As of April 20, 20 recruits and staff have been tested for COVID-19. None have been positive.

Under the Restriction on Movement-14 (ROM-14) program, recruits will remain in one assigned building and squad bay, with meals being delivered to the buildings instead of the company using the galley, according to Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Tamargo, the facility's public affairs officer.

“Recruits will primarily be doing academic work and study while in the ROM status,” he said. “There will be some minimal physical training. ‘Normal’ boot camp will commence after the 14-day restriction of movement period.”    

No recruits started boot camp since mid-March, when stricter separation and mitigation measures were instituted upon arrival and before training. At that time, recruits in transit underwent advanced screening for COVID-19 symptoms, including temperature screening at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) before arriving in Cape May.

“Recruits arriving at the training center are continuing to come by bus,” Tamargo said. “However, we are spreading them out on the bus to achieve social distancing by having only 12 recruits per bus. The Coast Guard and MEPS are requiring recruits to wear masks while in transit and maintain recommended health practices while traveling.” 

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Coast Guard families have found more ways to give back and help each other with masks and other services during this COVID-19 pandemic. One woman sewed more than 200 masks for local Coast Guard units and family members, as well as local and regional hospitals.

The smaller class, which started on April 21, consisted of 48 recruits, compared to the normal  100-120. During the first two weeks in April, two companies, each about 150 recruits, graduated from boot camp, according to Tamargo.

“The smaller numbers will impact our annual recruiting goal,” Tamargo said. “When it is safe to do so, we will increase our company size, but we anticipate playing catch up this year and next. We are still actively recruiting in the Coast Guard, and now, more than ever, every person matters and is essential to completing the Coast Guard’s missions.”

The base is open for essential Coast Guard operations, support of those operations, and its recruit training mission. Those not considered essential have been instructed to remain at home.

A class of recruits graduated April 22 after undergoing an accelerated training timeline, which “encompassed the essential required knowledge, skills and ability to graduate a mission-ready Coast Guardsman,” according to Tamargo. They staggered departures for their first assignment throughout the week.

“The base training division came up with a plan that addressed the core requirements necessary to graduate a person from Coast Guard basic training,” he explained. “Some parts of training, including marksmanship, elements of CPR training, and other smaller courses, were deferred to the next duty assignment as appropriate.” 

“As this is an entirely new process and environment for us, there will be challenges and there will likely be changes, but they will be made deliberately based on safety and potential changes in or outside of our training center.”

To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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