Fort Riley Garrison Commander delivers update on Fort Riley coronavirus response during virtual media roundtable

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Engaging with the local media, Garrison Commander Colonel Will McKannay of Fort Riley, came before the audience to speak on accomplishments in the past year during the pandemic and held a Q&A session pertaining to activities on the base.

“In current times, as you know, 2020 was both a great and a challenging year for Fort Riley. You know, we all know the challenges faced by the entire world in the fight against coronavirus and Covid-19,” McKannay said. “I arrived at Fort Riley in the middle of this fight. And we continue to work as a community to protect each other and offer everything that we can do to prevent the spread of the disease.”

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To this extent, McKannay said Fort Riley has continued to mandate mask wearing on base, except in situations where social distancing can be maintained, or during certain outdoor fitness activities. In an effort to mitigate health threats, Fort Riley has also maintained limited capacity at facilities, such as child development centers, fitness centers, and recreation areas.

Calling attention to the Irwin Army Community Hospital, which has received the vaccine for the past three weeks, McKannay had highlighted his staff are following the Department of Defense priorities and are focusing on health care workers and frontline workers first.

“Because these vaccines were given under the emergency use authorization, vaccinations are not mandatory. But we continue to encourage those who are eligible to receive the vaccine to do so.” McKannay said. “As vaccines arrived here, Major General Sims, the commanding general of first Infantry Division, he compared the arrival of the vaccine to the landing of the first Infantry Division on Omaha Beach, he pointed out that that moment in history was kind of marked the beginning of the end of that of that conflict. And so we see the arrival of the vaccine after many, many months of fighting  the the virus as kind of our beginning of the end, and it’s one of the ways that we are going to get out and defeat the virus.”

McKannay took time to mention housing updates during his Media round table with local news outlets, and encourage military families on post to complete the Department of Defense tenant satisfaction survey to improve their quality of living.

As was mentioned during this conference, Corvias has invested over $60 million to build new homes, renovate older homes and upgrade close to 4000 homes on base with energy efficient upgrades, new plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, all to improve energy conservation. Corvias additionally completed renovating 32 homes in Fort Riley’s Rim Rock Neighborhood, and 96 new homes are under construction in the Warner Peterson Neighborhood.

McKannay says the efforts of renovations extend to single soldiers as well, with over $100 million spent during the last two fiscal years upgrading barracks on post along with improvements to motor pools and child development center improvements totaling almost $12 million.

“All these projects get after two of our priorities, taking care of people and providing the best facilities we can for living, training, and working on Fort Riley,” McKannay said. “[Fort Riley] is well known across the Army for its training capacity, and it actively supports army modernization to include fielding the synthetic training environment, and unmanned aerial systems; providing infrastructure to rapidly deploy forces globally and equip & resource the force.”

The efforts ongoing on Fort Riley have been recognized as McKannay announced their Directorate of Public Works received the Secretary of the Army’s 2020 Energy and Water Management Award, and their Community Recreation Division earned the 2020 National Gold Medal and Plaque Award in the Armed Forces Division for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management

“This is just another in a long list of reasons why I believe Fort Riley is the best place to live, to train to deploy from to come home to and in many cases retire. I also want to point out that our partnerships with our surrounding communities and the support we received in the central Flint Hill region has a lot to do with why I can say Fort Riley is the best place,” McKannay said. “The installation would not be what it is without great relationships and [the]support we have in this region, [from]the local governments and the school districts where our children’s attend to the businesses and organizations that quickly rally around our soldiers when there’s a need to each community where our soldiers and families and our civilians live. We consider Fort Riley, an important part of the central Flint Hill Flint Hills region.”

During the Q&A section of the event, McKannay fielded questions pertaining to Covid-19 Restriction Benchmarks (both on and off post), the numbers of those affected in Fort Riley’s personnel, Inter-Hospital to Hospital cooperation & support, vaccination priorities with personnel and projects set back due to the Coronavirus.

“I would say that we don’t have any specific numbers or benchmarks, but we meet weekly as a command and receive updates from our analysts and our medical experts on where we’re seeing changes in the virus. Most specifically, whether or not our infection rate is going up, our total numbers of cases are going up,” McKannay said. “…What’s the factors behind that, whether it be soldiers returning from leave away from the post, or if we see an increase in a specific behavior, or from a specific location maybe off or on the installation. Those are really the measures we take into consideration, and the Commanding General takes recommendations from his staff from all the commands that’s really a collective effort before he makes a decision.”

“I’d say we’re almost in our second wave of providing vaccines, we received our first shipment right before the holidays, and started right away, as I mentioned, with those frontline workers priority is with the hospital workers who were dealing with COVID patients daily, and then our first responders, our law enforcement and fire department,” McKannay said.  “Right now we’re moving into the second part of that first phase as you know, it’s a two shot series. Then we’ll be getting ready to go to our next shipment. I can’t speak to the specific date or arrival of that, but we are anticipating that arrival very soon.”

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Bill Bernard

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