COVID-19 Outbreak Slows Marine Officer Training at Quantico

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Marine officer candidates practice a close order drill.
U.S. Marine Corps officer candidates, attending Officer Candidate School (OCS), practice close order drill on the parade deck at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Oct. 17, 2017. (Lance Cpl. Tyler Pender/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

An outbreak of COVID-19 has slowed training at the Marine Corps' Officer Candidates School, or OCS, in Quantico, Virginia, the branch confirmed in a press release issued Tuesday. 

"Officer Candidates School has instituted a temporary reduction in training for all affected candidates and staff due to an ongoing COVID-19 situation," 1st Lt. Phillip Parker, a spokesman for the Marines, said in the press release. 

It is unclear whether a student or staff member caused the outbreak, but Parker noted that both groups "are being monitored by trained medical personnel, and have all been tested for COVID-19 and placed in either isolation or quarantine based on their individual test results."

The Marine Corps has struggled to vaccinate existing troops. According to the latest Department of Defense figures, about 70% of Marines are fully vaccinated, while the Army, Navy and Air Force have surpassed 90% compliance. Just two months ago, about 57% of Marines were fully vaccinated, while the Navy was at 79%.

The Officer Candidates School is the first stop for prospective Marine officers. Graduates of the school are commissioned as second lieutenants and go on to further training before reporting to their first duty station. 

The outbreak comes amid changes in how the officer training school deals with COVID-19. 

Last year, the Marine Corps instituted a policy of quarantining OCS candidates on base before their training began to combat the pandemic. However, this class is the first to complete that quarantine at home rather than on base. 

"One of the driving factors in that [decision was] that candidates in this newest class, those that were not already fully vaccinated before the class began, were required to receive their first dose of the vaccine for when they entered the initial screening process upon arrival at OCS," Parker explained in a phone call with Military.com. 

He noted that candidates are tested for COVID-19 prior to the start of training, as well.

The Marine Corps did not reply to questions about the size of the outbreak, citing a policy of not releasing numbers of positive COVID-19 cases at the unit level out of privacy and operational security concerns. 

Parker said the school will continue to take all "preventative medical procedures that are practical" to combat the spread of the disease, such as masking, temperature checks, and "targeted quarantine and isolation for the infected individuals." 

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin. 

Related: Sailors and Marines Have 90 Days to Get Vaccinated or Face Punishment 

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