Offutt cancels military travel and leave, but says it has seen no confirmed cases of COVID-19 – Omaha World-Herald

Offutt Air Force Base will close its cavernous gym, the Field House, and bar government travel for military and civilian personnel as part of the effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The restrictions were announced late Sunday in a YouTube video featuring 55th Wing Commander Col. Gavin Marks and the bases senior enlisted member, Chief Master Sgt. Brian C. Thomas.

The base also is limiting or canceling mass gatherings, according to the video.

Marks said several Offutt personnel who have showed symptoms consistent with the coronavirus have been tested, but to date there have been no confirmed cases.

The gym will be closed beginning Wednesday and will remain so until further notice. Air Force fitness tests also have been suspended.

We understand many of you have concerns and many are worried, Thomas said in the video. Its completely normal and reasonable to feel some anxiety as we make our way through this.

Thomas said the 55th Wing had established a public health working group last week, made up of experts from the Wings medical group, emergency management, finance and contracting, as well as all of the major units at Offutt.

Marks said the group will keep him informed about changes in the status of COVID-19 at Offutt, and in the surrounding community while working with federal, state and local health officials.

Please know that everything we are doing is to prevent the spread of the virus, Marks said.

The cancellation of official travel and leave complies with a Defense Department directive issued Friday. That ends all domestic travel for either temporary duty or permanent relocation to another base through May 11, and leaves many service members and their families uncertain about upcoming moves.

Late spring and summer, after school lets out, are the peak seasons for military moves. A 55th Wing spokesman said it wasnt clear yet how many are affected.

Military members will only be allowed to take local leave. The policy also brought some service members home early from spring break trips with their families.

It was perfect timing. We started driving from Nebraska to Florida and had to turn around, wrote one military spouse on a 55th Wing Facebook page.

We understand these new travel policies and their implementation may create financial hardships for some, Marks said in the video. We are looking at how best to work through these issues.

Late last week, the 55th Force Support Squadron announced the cancellation of on-base recreational events for the rest of the month.

But most recreational facilities including the Willow Lakes Golf Course, outdoor recreation building, auto hobby shop, Aero Club and arts and crafts shop will remain open, with social distancing practices in place, according to the squadrons Facebook page.

The Warhawk Community Center has been closed, but on-base day care and youth programs will continue. The bowling alley has been closed, but its restaurant will remain open for takeout food only.

Enhanced cleaning protocols are being followed at all facilities, the Facebook page said.

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Military and civilian employees so far are not working from home. But Delanie Stafford, a 55th Wing spokesman, said training is taking place this week that will allow some to do so.

Stafford said Offutt workers and their families will be invited to join in a virtual town hall later this week. Details are still being worked out, but he said it will likely take place Wednesday evening through the 55th Wing Commander Facebook page.

Marks and Thomas urged residents to follow the Wings Facebook pages and its website,

We understand these decisions we have to make impact all members here at Team Offutt, and we are certainly sympathetic, Thomas said. But these are unprecedented times. We are all in this together.

The area now known as Offutt Air Force Base was first commissioned as Fort Crook, an Army post to house cavalry soldiers and their horses. This photo, circa 1905, shows mounted officers and infantry troops assembling on the parade ground. The officers' quarters in the background still stand today, but the closing of Offutt's stables in 2010 ended the base's equine tradition.

The World's Fair of Aviation was held at Offutt Air Force Base, including a race between a 1912 airplane and 1912 automobile. The 1912 airplane easily won, but provided sharp contrast to the sleek, modern "600-mile-per-hour aircraft" on display at the fair.

Painter Frank Anania places the final bolt in the SAC emblem, newly placedon the command building at Strategic Air Command headquarters. After the command was created in 1946, SAC headquarters were moved from Andrews Field, Maryland, to Offutt Air Force Base. SAC's high-flying reconnaissance planes and bombers would go on to play a global role from the onset of the Cold War through the last bomb of the Persian Gulf War.

The Strategic Air Command "nerve center" gets a new headquarters building at Offutt Air Force Base.

Even since the late 1950s, Strategic Air Command has been holding open house events at Offutt Air Force Base to display and demonstrate aircraft for civilian visitors.Each year, the open house and air show at Offutt features aerial acts or reenactments, static displays, and booths showcasing military history and capabilities.

The first SAC museum consisted of a section of abandoned runway near the north edge of Offutt Air Force Base outside of Bellevue. However, the outdoor display left the aircraft vulnerable to the elements.

A Royal Air Force bomber crashes at Offutt Air Force Base. Beginning in the late 1950s, the RAF maintained small detachment and service facility for Vulcan bomber planes at Offutt, often participating in defense exercises and demonstrations at the base until their retirement and deactivation in 1982. Thisplane crashed at take-off at the northwest end of the main runway and then slid across Highway 73-75. All seven passengers survived.

Just weeks after the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy visits Offutt Air Force Base, accompanied by Gen. Thomas Power of Strategic Air Command, right.

Actor Rock Hudson receives a B-52 bomber briefing during a visit to Omaha and Offutt Air Force Base. He began filming "A Gathering of Eagles" in May of that year.

An early photograph of the Ehrling Bergquist military medical clinic in Bellevue. The clinic has served Offutt Air Force Base since 1966 and was remodeled in 2013, including a grand staircase, largerphysical therapy and mental health areas, and a more private mammography waiting area.

The world's largest aircraft at that time, the C5 Galaxy was displayed as part of the open house for civilian visitors at Offutt Air Force Base.

A conference room in the SAC underground command post at Offutt Air Force Base. Strategic Air Command would be formally disestablished in 1992, but Offutt would remain the headquarters for the new United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).

The Strategic Air Command Memorial Chapel holds a Sunday morning service as a reminder of those who have given their service and those who have died during the Command's 46-year history. Founded in in 1946, the command was dissolved in a ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base.

OPPD worker Craig Azure of Ashland holds a power line up across Platteview Road near Highway 50 so that an Albatross airplane can fit under it. After SAC was dissolved, the museum moved into a new indoor facility in 1998. Airplanes were moved from their old location at Offutt Air Force Base to their new and current home near Mahoney State Park off I-80.

The parade grounds gazebo at Offutt is dedicated in honor of Airman 1st Class Warren T. Willis, who was killed in an aircraft accidentthe previous December.

President Bill Clinton speaks at a rally at Offutt Air Force Base.

More than 300 anti-nuclear protesters gather outside Kinney Gate at Offutt Air Force Base. The rally was part of a weekend of protest against nuclear weapons, and was organized in response to an extensive nuclear arsenal review being held at the base.

Vice President Dick Cheney greets service men and women following a speech at Offutt Air Force Base's Minuteman missile in Bellevue.

Dignitaries clap along to an armed forces medley as ground is broken for the new U. S. Strategic Command Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. From left: Neb. Rep. Adrian Smith, Rep. Lee Terry, Neb. Governor Dave Heineman, General C. Robert Kehler, Commander USStratcom, Sen. Ben Nelson, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, and Mayor of Bellevue, Rita Sanders.

Chris Shotton created this thank you message to the airmen and troops flying in and out of Offutt Air Force Base. Employees of area Walmart stores have been writing giant messages in fields near Highway 370 for years.

Senior Airman Kevin Chapman works the desk at the new Public Health Clinic located in the Ehrling Bergquist military medical clinic.

The new MERLIN SS200m Aircraft Birdstrike Avoidance Radar System, with the control tower in the background, photographed at Offutt Air Force Base. The system was moved here from Afghanistan in order to help detect large flocks and prevent damages to aircraft from bids, which cost the Air Force millions of dollars each year.

An aerial photo from late February of the construction site for StratCom's new $1.2 billion headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. Despite numerous delays and setbacks, the building would be completed in 2018, six years after construction began. StratCom would then spend the next year outfitting the structure with more than $600 million worth of high-tech communications and security gear.

President Barack Obama arrives in Omaha after landing at Offutt Air Force Base. While in Omaha, Obama met with the family of Kerrie Orozco, visited a local teacher, and addressed a crowd of about 8,000 at Baxter Arena.

This year, U.S. Strategic Command unveiled a new Command and Control Facility located at Offutt Air Force Base. The "battle deck," shown here, features computer workstations, soundproofing, and the ability to connect instantly to the White House and Pentagon.

Luke Thomas and Air Force Tech Sgt. Vanessa Vidaurre at a flooded portion of Offutt Air Force Base. In March, historic flooding included breaches of two levees protecting the base from the Missouri River.

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Offutt cancels military travel and leave, but says it has seen no confirmed cases of COVID-19 - Omaha World-Herald

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