These Are the Travel Exemptions in the Pentagon's New Stop-Movement Order

Members of 1st Battalion 178th Infantry Regiment, of the Illinois National Guard return home April 19, 2020
Members of 1st Battalion 178th Infantry Regiment, of the Illinois National Guard return home April 19, 2020, after serving in the U.S. Central Command Area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Shane Hill)

The Pentagon has lifted the coronavirus travel restrictions for basic training, as well as for deployments and redeployments within the combatant commands, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a memo to the force released Monday.

The new orders authorize training-related travel, "to include basic training, advanced infantry training and travel to a first duty station," Esper's memo states.

Those pending retirement or separation are also exempted.

Related: Military Travel Ban Extended Until June 30; Some Restrictions Eased

In addition, travel by patients for medical treatment and by medical providers is exempted, as well as travel by those who were on TDY, or temporary duty assignments, when the restrictions went into effect.

Those individuals are now authorized to return to their permanent duty stations when the TDY assignments end, the memo adds.

Other than the new exemptions, the restrictions for all service members to "stop movement both internationally and domestically" will remain in effect at least until June 30, the memo states.

In a call with reporters April 18, Pentagon officials said the individual military services will have some flexibility to determine which top-priority PCS moves will continue.

The memo also authorized Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, to approve travel as needed under the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise "to project and sustain the Joint Force globally."

The authorization for TRANSCOM included air and ship's crews who are on prepare-to-deploy alert status, air refueling and patient movement personnel, mortuary affairs personnel and those acting in support of "inland, surface, sea and air sustainment missions, the memo said.

On March 12, Esper put on hold travel for most permanent change-of-station moves, training and temporary duty, as well as some deployments and re-deployments to comply with the White House general guidance to stay home practice social distancing during the pandemic.

"While I understand the impact this has on our troops and their families, this is a necessary measure to keep out people safe and our military ready to act," Esper said at the time.

On Saturday, Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan said the restrictions were being extended at least until June 30, but also said new exemptions would be authorized as detailed in Esper's memo Monday.

In announcing the exemptions in Esper's memo, DoD said in a statement that Esper also was making it official that the travel restrictions would remain in place until June 30 to aid in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

"While the Department acknowledges that this order will have great impact on our service members and their families who are looking to proceed with their lives, the rapidly changing environment has created significant risks to service members," DoD said.

However, "the Department now has procedures in place to allow for additional waivers and the resumption of travel for several categories of travelers that were previously suspended, including deployments."

The Army acted quickly after Esper's memo went out and announced that its own restrictions on travel for basic training were being lifted as of Monday for all four Army training centers, although there will be limitations depending on where the troops are coming from.

The Army did not immediately designate which areas of the U.S. were considered to be at low risk for coronavirus, but said that "recruits from areas considered low-risk will be able to continue movement to training bases. Those who are in high risk areas will be rescheduled for future dates."

In addition, several procedures were being put in place before recruits leave their hometowns and after they arrive at training bases that will significantly alter the usual training process to lower the risk of coronavirus, the Army said.

In the two weeks leading up to their scheduled ship dates, future soldiers will be screened for symptoms and possible exposure to COVID-19 at various intervals by recruiters and Military Entrance Processing Station personnel.

They will be assessed again after arrival at the training base, the Army said. Once there, "recruits will undergo modified training curriculums and will be closely monitored with daily health assessments," the Army said.

In addition, officials said, "much of the classroom-based training will be shifted to the first 14 days of the ten-week basic training curriculum to help facilitate the controlled-monitoring phase" for coronavirus.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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