Army Halts SERE Course after 90 Students Test Positive for Coronavirus

Instructors teach students how to friction-rapel during SERE training at Camp Mackall.
Instructors teach students how to friction-rapel during the evasion phase of Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape Level-C training (SERE) at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, March 21, 2020. (U.S. Army/K. Kassens)

U.S. Army Special Operations Command officials announced today that 90 students who were going through survival training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19.

The soldiers were participating in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) course, according to a news release from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

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The New York Times first reported this news.

Out of the 110 students in the course, 82 students, along with eight instructors, tested positive for COVID-19, Janice Burton, a spokeswoman for SWCS told The course was terminated and all 110 soldiers are being quarantined for 14 days, Burton said.

The three-week SERE course at Camp Mackall is one of the phases of the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course). Students receive two weeks of training to learn how to live off the land, evade enemy patrols, resist the enemy's interrogation techniques and escape from captivity. On week three, the students are broken up into small groups for a field training exercise which involves two to four days in a prisoner-of-war setting.

SWCS officials said the command implemented strict COVID-19 guidelines at the outbreak of the pandemic.

"We have 2,400 students training here every day at SWCS and that [90] is the only sick population we have," Burton said.

Before attending any SWCS course, students are isolated for 14 days, Burton said, who added that if they test positive, they are quarantined for another 14 days.

"The health and wellness of our students and staff is our top priority," Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, commander and commandant of SWCS, said in the release. "We will do everything we can to protect our students and their families."

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