Both installations moving away from ’mission-essential personnel’ policies.

EGLIN AFB — Eglin Air Force Base has moved into the second phase of a four-stage plan for recovery from the challenges posed by COVID-19.

And at nearby Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Commandarters, changes also are coming in the installation’s response to the pandemic.

At Eglin, each of the four recovery stages “is an incremental step getting back to normal,” Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, installation commander and commander of the 96th Test Wing, the host unit at Eglin AFB, said Thursday in a video update on the base’s Facebook page.

On Tuesday, Eglin moved away from the “mission-essential-only” personnel posture established on March 31 as part of the installation’s effort to help control the spread of COVID-19. That posture included only the military personnel and civilian contractors involved in the highest-priority test missions, base medical personnel and crews working on base construction projects.

Cain said Thursday that moving into the second stage of recovery “means we’ve started to add some non-mission-essential activities back into our day-to-day routine ... that gets some of our folks back to the workplace ... to continue a gradual expansion.”

Visitors still are not allowed on the base, Cain said Thursday, and as far as Eglin personnel are concerned, he added, “we’re still in a very aggressive telework posture.”

But Cain also noted that the base has changed its approach to teleworking. “We still have a lot of people teleworking,” he said, “but if they can’t do their job via telework and support the mission for that day, then we bring them to the base.”

In other comments Thursday, Cain said that health protection measures — the wearing of masks, social distancing and other strategies to help control the spread of COVID-19 — have been and will remain “the key to our success as we continue to operate.

“The message that I continue to tell everyone,” Cain continued, “is that national defense is not going to stop. We have to keep doing this mission. We hope it doesn’t happen, but if waves of the pandemic were to hit us, what those protection measures do is to continue to keep us at a level posture where we can execute the mission.”

At nearby Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command, the “mission-essential” posture adopted March 31 will be ending Saturday, according to a Facebook post from Col. Michael Conley, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, the host unit at Hurlburt Field.

“After lengthy discussions with my leadership teams, I'm ready to start moving Hurlburt Field back toward what we remember as normal,” Conley wrote.

Beginning Saturday, Conley told Hurlburt personnel, “all eligible DoD (Department of Defense) ID card holders (to include retirees) will be able to access Hurlburt Field — mission-essential letters will no longer be required.”

Specifics of the new approach will be posted on the installation’s Facebook page early next week, but Conley previewed some of the loosened restrictions, which include the reopening of the commissary to “all eligible patrons.”

But, Conley said, “we can't go back to the behaviors we witnessed during the early days of the COVID pandemic. While some items will be limited, there are no food shortages — there's no need to hoard items or disrespect the employees.”

Other changes coming to Hurlburt include expanded access to the installation’s fitness centers, although some restrictions will remain in terms of capacity.

Also set to open Saturday at Hurlburt are the Gator Lakes Golf Course, the rifle/pistol range, and the library. The base pool will be open, but for lap swimming only.

“I appreciate your patience, understanding, and feedback over the last 2+ months,” Conley told Hurlburt personnel. “We aren't back to normal yet ... but we're moving step-by-step.”

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