NewsLafayette Parish


Military recruitment process affected by COVID-19

Posted at 10:44 AM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 11:44:11-04

Most of us have seen the stories about Louisiana's National Guard on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight, screening, testing and caring for patients.

That's sure to encourage some who want to sign up to help, but the pandemic has also affected the way men and women are recruited into the guard.

The Guard needs to recruit new members, but also has a responsibility to protect the guardsmen, their families, and those who come in contact with them via missions, said SFC Ricky Nicholas in the Lafayette recruitment office.

"We're making sure our enlistment process is very safe, very thorough, and that we protect the families the soldiers are going home to, the soldiers aligned with them, and those in contact with them," Nicholas said.

The recruitment office is open now, with all personnel masked and gloved and social distancing enforced, he said. But they're still limiting face-to-face contact; the recruitment process starts with a virtual meeting to screen a potential guardsman with "a ton of questions" to determine the recruit's situation, he said.

That includes any exposure to COVID-19.

A recent article in the Military Times revealed that a previous formal diagnosis of COVID-19 would be disqualified from enlistment in the military.

“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying ...” the newspaper reports.

The story is based on a memo that was posted on Twitter. The Military Times obtained confirmation from the Pentagon that the memo is authentic, the story reports.

If an applicant fails screening, according to the memo, they won’t be tested, but they can return in 14 days if they’re symptom-free. Anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 will have to wait until 28 days after diagnosis to report to MEPS, the Military Times reports.

Upon return, a diagnosis will be marked as “permanently disqualifying” for accession. Recruits can apply for waivers for all permanently disqualifying conditions, including surviving COVID-19. However, without any further guidance for exceptions dealing with COVID-19, a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver, the Military Times reports.

To read the whole story, and see the memo for yourself, click here.

There's been no explanation for the move, but much about COVID-19 is not known at this point, including long-term effects. In South Korea and Japan, patients who had the virus, then tested negative, have tested positive again weeks after their initial infection.