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Coronavirus not stopping this Rigby man from serving his country

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Carson Hawkins at his first visit to a Military Entrance Processing Station. | Courtesy photo

RIGBY — A 19-year-old Rigby man won’t let the novel coronavirus stop him from serving in the United States Army as he ships off to basic training next week.

“I decided to join the military because ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a great appreciation for this country and for the people that serve this country,” Carson Hawkins said. “I thought, why wouldn’t I serve if I expect other people to serve this country?”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army delayed the arrival of future soldiers at basic combat training for two weeks. However, Lt. Col. Raphael Vasquez, commander of the Salt Lake City Army Recruiting Battalion, which oversees eastern Idaho recruits, said starting Monday, some recruits from areas with lower numbers of COVID-19 cases — like Hawkins — can go to basic training.

“It’s an interesting time right now with the whole virus thing,” Hawkins said. “This is something I’ve looked forward to since I was a kid, and I want to start my dream as soon as I can.”

Temporary Army precautions require Hawkins to self-isolate himself at least 14 days before leaving to a Military Entrance Processing Station. Once medically cleared, Hawkins will fly to Fort Benning in Georgia, where he will undergo 10 weeks of intensive basic training at the military base.

Once a recruit arrives there, the Army uses Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved screening criteria. It includes taking temperatures of new recruits upon arrival and a series of potential exposure screening questions and medical screening for COVID-19-like symptoms.

“Immediate training will be conducted in such a manner that has a bit of social distancing,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez says by implementing these measures the Army hopes to mitigate the dangers of COVID-19 while still performing its mission.

“Our first and foremost mission is the defense of our nation,” Vasquez said. “We have a mandate to be able to defend our nation from both advisories and situations like (COVID-19).”

The pandemic does not change Hawkins’ determination to do well in basic training.

“I’m looking forward to just doing my best and conquering the challenge,” Hawkins said. “This is going to be one of the biggest challenges in my life, so just being able to work through it and coming out at the end knowing I accomplished something, it’s going to mean a lot to me.”

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