Relaxation, a perk of quarantine for returning Fort Wainwright soldiers

Fort Wainwright soldiers who are in quarantine for two weeks after their nine-month deployment try to make the best of it, by relaxing and catching up on sleep.
Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 5:23 PM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2020 at 5:30 PM AKDT
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After their return from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East, soldiers with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division on Fort Wainwright entered two weeks of quarantine.

While soldiers say it is not the ideal situation, they are taking advantage of the time to rest and catch up on sleep.

“This is hard for our soldiers and their families but it’s the right thing for the community and for them,” said U.S. Army Alaska Command Sergeant Major Philip B. Blaisdell. The soldiers who returned from the deployment are quarantining at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. Lieutenant Colonel Drew Lynch, with the 1-25 SBCT said they looked to nearby bases due to their capacity at Fort Wainwright.

“Eielson is very close to Fort Wainwright, just 30-40 minutes down the road. We are able to bring our soldiers over here and put them into a couple barracks... but Eielson, the Air Force, they also have missions they are going to kick off here in the near future. So it made sense to also take some of our main bodies down to JBER. [They’re] another outstanding community down there that embraced our soldiers coming in there, and they have some facilities that are appropriate for our soldiers to spend their two weeks,” said Lynch.

U.S. Army Alaska works to improve the soldiers’ experience in quarantine by allowing food and drink deliveries, workout equipment, movies, video games and other activities to stay busy.

“Nobody wants to come back and go into quarantine for two weeks, that’s not ideal -- but our soldiers are adaptive. They were down range, they were in some tough spots down range in Iraq and Syria... and so putting in two weeks here, although not ideal, they can get through it,” said Lynch.

Since the soldiers have few responsibilities while in quarantine, it gives them a chance to take a break after their nine-month deployment. “It’s actually been relaxing, got to catch up on a lot of sleep, just been watching movies, got to play some volleyball, still do some PT, so it hasn’t been that bad, “said Staff Sergeant Jeremy Bonilla.

“Ya know coming back from Iraq, it’s definitely nice to be back in Alaska, back in the good weather, it’s not 110 degrees. We’re able to come outside, we get food, three meals a day. It really hasn’t been too bad. Some of the guys are just kind of ready to get out, but all things considered it’s been a pretty pleasant time,” said First Lieutenant Jeffrey Weller. When we spoke to Weller, his group was about halfway through their quarantine.

“They’re going to be home soon, it’s almost over, these guys have a couple more days than our other crew, we have some folks down at JBER, and they’re all doing really well,” said Blaisdell.

The soldiers said what they were looking forward to most once they are out of quarantine: “Exploring Alaska, getting out, going fishing, definitely salmon fishing, I cannot wait for that... going down to Seward and seeing what that’s all about,” said Bonilla. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to my house, that will be nice... and then I guess personally for me, my girlfriend is moving up, so looking forward to her coming up and us getting our house and going forward with life,” said Weller.

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