Mark Esper issues 60-day overseas stop movement order for U.S. military

March 25 (UPI) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has enacted a 60-day stop movement order for all uniformed service members and their families as well as civilian service members stationed overseas, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.

The measure is intended to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and to “protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” said a Pentagon statement sent to UPI.

“Building upon previously enacted movement restrictions governing foreign travel, permanent change of station moves, temporary duty and personal leave, this stop movement order will also impact exercises, deployments, redeployments and other global force management activities,” the statement said.

The order impacts an estimated 90,000 service members who are either slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days.

The order includes some conditions under which exceptions can be granted.

They include: travel by patients and medical providers for treatment; scheduled deployments or redeployments of U.S. Navy vessels and embarked units; individuals who have already initiated travel.

Troops whose temporary duty assignment ends while the order is in effect are authorized to return to their home station, according to the Pentagon.

Other exceptions may be granted on a case by case basis, including situations where travel “is deemed mission essential, humanitarian in nature or warranted due to extreme hardship.”

The statement also said the order “is not expected to impact the continued drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be complete within 135 days following the signed agreement.”

Troop rotations into and out of Afghanistan had already been paused amid the pandemic.

Last week NATO Resolute Support announced it would pause troop rotations into and out of Afghanistan in order to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, placing individuals leaving and individuals returning in screening facilities for 14 days.

Earlier in March, the Pentagon restricted domestic travel for military members and their families due to the coronavirus.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday they believe the pandemic will continue to grow for the next three weeks, but that the department has not able to model further than that.

“It’s a worrisome narrative when we try to say there’s some reason that we should question the guidance that’s being given out, or there’s some reason why we should pull apart a shared approach to this,” said Joint Staff Surgeon Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs at a press briefing at the Pentagon. “I don’t think it matters what day things start to get better. What matters is what we’re doing right now to mitigate this outbreak.”

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