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Military carries on, even when commander-in-chief is struck by virus

Posted October 2, 2020 8:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 3, 2020 2:06 p.m. EDT

— The Pentagon made no changes to the Defense Department’s state of alert on Friday in the wake of President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis.

While Trump is in isolation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the White House, service members in all branches of the military will continue to fulfill their duties, said retired Army Gen. Dan McNeill.

"They fully understand the chain of command. They understand tenets of their oath to serve and obey lawful orders," McNeill said. "I don't know that we had any problems in the 40 years I was a soldier, and don't expect any today, either."

McNeill commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, the XVIII Airborne Corps and U.S. Army Forces Command, all of which are based at Fort Bragg. Before he retired 12 years ago, he served under eight presidents as commander-in-chief.

He was a major in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan was shot outside a Washington, D.C., hotel. While Reagan could have lost his life, McNeill said he and other soldiers at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas kept doing their jobs.

"Things moved around Fort Leavenworth as they normally do. The military policeman guarding the gate was still there and obeying all the orders and surveying all government property around and protecting that property," he said.

Soldiers at Fort Bragg, now under the command of Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, are doing the same today, McNeill said.

"Gen. Kurilla is paying attention to the orders he's received for potential contingency operations that have nothing to do with an ill political leader," he said. "The world's a dangerous place right now, the pandemic notwithstanding."

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