There are now more than 11,400 Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday afternoon.
Governors across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington D.C. have each mobilized components of their Army and Air National Guard to assist in their state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, eight states have now approved the use of Dual-Status Commanders, giving them the authority to command active and reserve component troops under control of a state’s governor. As a governors’ response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, so does the Guard response.
“Americans should know the National Guard has their backs throughout this crisis. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together," said Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Sunday night, President Donald Trump ordered Guard troops in New York, California and Washington be placed under Title 32 status, meaning states maintain control, but the federal government picks up the tab.
Lengyel told reporters Sunday night that he expects more governors to seek that status, as it helps speed up the mobilization process and provides better benefits for the troops.
Current National Guard COVID-19 response missions include, but are not limited to:
Delivering food in hard-hit communities;
*Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice;
*Providing critical Personal Protective Equipment training and sample collection to first responders and hospital personnel;
*Supporting local emergency management agencies with response planning and execution;
*Providing support to testing facilities;
*Serving as response liaisons and support to state Emergency Operations Centers;
*Proving transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers;
*Assisting with disinfecting/cleaning of common public spaces;
*Collecting and delivering samples.
In addition, Guard missions also include Weapons of Mass Destruction - Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training and sample collection; response planners; support to medical testing facilities; response liaisons and support to state Emergency Operations Centers; support to healthcare professionals - assessments, transportation; logistics support; assisting with disinfecting/cleaning of common public spaces; providing transportation support for health care providers; collecting and delivering samples; and assisting with sample administration.
“We expect multiple states to use their WMD-CSTs to assist in sample collection, donning and doffing PPE techniques and decontamination techniques,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Cope, Chief, National Guard Bureau Weapons of Mass Destruction Program Office
The National Guard Bureau (NGB) on the federal level assists in “synchronization” and planning between the states, and their coordination center is a “24/7 operation working at increased capacity in anticipation of COVID-19 requirements,” the bureau said.
“This COVID-19 pandemic is a historic event and it requires a historic response from the National Guard,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, National Guard Bureau chief. “My number one priority is taking care of our National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and their families. The readiness of our force will be critical to the success of this nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.”
Despite the growing number of activated Guard components, during a Tuesday press conference, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper did not commit to federalizing the Guardsmen, instead opting to support governors in their individual responses.
“As we get requests in, we will look at activating, if we need to, at the federal level or using the Reserves, whatever the case may be. We want to be very supportive with regard to our prioritization in terms of supporting the American people and the governors,” Esper said. “Right now, we are really focused on Guard and Reserve — in that order. There hasn’t been a need yet, a request, for active duty. So we will take these requests in due time.”
Here are the latest updates of National Guard activations across the United States:
As of Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has activated 20 National Guard personnel to state active-duty status to support the state’s emergency operations center. The mobilized guardsmen are medics from the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered at Camp Robinson.
There are currently 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Late Tuesday night, California Gov. Gavin Newsom placed the California National Guard “on alert” in preparation for state-wide mobilization.
“The National Guard has been directed by the governor to be prepared to perform humanitarian missions across the state including food distribution, ensuring resiliency of supply lines as well as supporting public safety as required," a press release stated.
“As Californians make sacrifices over the coming weeks to protect our shared health, we are all grateful for medical providers, first-responders and National Guard personnel who are assisting those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19," Newsom said in the release.
Previously, the California Air National Guard activated a 10-person “medical augmentation team" from the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard “to provide emergency pre-hospital stabilization response for up to 24 patients per 24-hour operations,” according to the National Guard Bureau.
Currently, state health officials have confirmed 472 cases of COVID-19 with over 11,000 people self-monitoring.
In a Tuesday press conference, President Donald Trump mentioned the possibility of sending the Army Corps of Engineers to California to increase hospital bed capacities.
“The Army Corps of Engineers is ready, willing and able. We have to give them the go ahead if we find that it’s going to be necessary," the president said. “We’re talking to California about different sites, but we can have a lot of units up fairly quickly if we need them.”
Colorado has 50 guardsmen mobilized on state active-duty status, “assisting local and state agencies with medical support and logistics at drive-up COVID-19 testing centers in various communities throughout the state," according to the National Guard Bureau.
In addition, 30 full-time Guard personnel are advising state and local partners across Colorado on “validated tactics, techniques and procedures for future screening missions in Colorado," a release added.
The Florida National Guard has 1,493 Guard men and women activated in support of COVID19, according to 1st Lt. Tahisha Coleman. a spokeswoman.
They are supporting the State’s with Community Based Testing Sites (CBTS), augmentation to airport screening measures, statewide logistics support, coordination, planning and operational mission sets. To date, the FLNG has assisted in the testing of over 4,300 individuals for the COVID-19 virus. The FLNG augmented Orange County CBTS site will conduct limited sampling today and projected to go fully operational tomorrow.
The Florida National Guard has been asked to augment local law enforcement and airport authorities in application of the Governor’s order to conduct screening on passengers inbound from CA, WA, NY and NJ at major airports. These missions will support the governor’s recent travel ban guidance in an attempt to significantly reduce the number of infected individuals entering the State from areas with a high amount of community spread.
The Florida National Guard has activated its medical professionals, Army Combat Medic Specialists and Air Force Medical Technicians in support of the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Community Based Testing Sites. Our Guardsmen have reported in and formed Task Force Medical.
It has also has activated Guardsmen to augment the State Logistics Readiness Center (SLRC), the State’s Logistics Branch, as well as facilitate statewide logistics needs of the Florida National Guard formations on mission. The FLNG support to the SLRC remains at 24 hour a day operations. The Florida National Guard logistics professionals continue to support the State’s Logistics Branch in order to maintain visibility on both State and Federal commodities better enabling FLNG personnel to have required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sampling kits to conduct our mission support.
The Florida National Guard has activated Guardsmen to augment the State Emergency Operations Center and local emergency management offices across the state.
Six guardsmen of the Iowa National Guard are serving as liaisons officers in the State Emergency Operations Center, while the Iowa Air National Guard is providing facilities and flight line support to the Iowa Department of Public Health, according to Col. Michael Wunn, Iowa National Guard director of public affairs.
There are 29 confirmed cases in Iowa with 199 persons being monitored, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Gov. JB Pritzker of Illinois has recently mobilized 60 Army and Air National Guard personnel to state active-duty status, according to Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, public affairs director at the Illinois National Guard.
Forty-three of these guardsmen are from the 182nd Airlift Wing Medical Group out of Peoria, Illinois, who will assist state health officials, including with COVID-19 screening and testing.
Seventeen planning liaison officers are also assisting officials throughout the state with logistics and planning.
Illinois currently has 160 confirmed cases with one death, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Governor John Bel Edwards directed the Louisiana National Guard to activate over 238 soldiers and airmen so far, not including full-time Guardsmen, to assist with the COVID-19 response
And the number Guardsmen and equipment is anticipated to increase until the situation is stabilized.
More than 100 soldiers and airmen are stationed at three sites in Jefferson Parish and New Orleans to assist local agencies with COVID-19 testing. The drive-up testing stations have begun to take delivery of the necessary testing kits and protective equipment and are scheduled to become operational within the next few days.
At the direction of Governor Hogan, the Maryland National Guard, Maryland Department of Health, and Prince George’s County Executive, Angela Alsobrooks, continue to work together for the establishment of a pilot health screening location at Fed-Ex field in Landover, Maryland, according to Kurt Rauschenberg, Maryland National Guard public affairs officer.
Last week, Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan activated around 400 guardsmen from the Maryland Army and Air National Guard over the weekend to augment the state’s capabilities.
In a press conference on Monday, Hogan said a total of 1,000 guardsmen will be activated by the day’s end with an additional 1,200 on “enhanced readiness” status, expected to be activated this week.
These guardsmen include two Area Support Medical Companies to assist state health officials in screening patients, transporting supplies and distributing food.
“One of things that the governor mentioned was the distribution of the Strategic National Stockpile mission, particularly personal protective equipment,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, Maryland adjutant general, in the press conference. “That’s always been a standing mission for us, and we are going to execute that in the coming days.”
On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy activated the New Jersey National Guard to assist in the state’s response.
“We will be working closely with the [New Jersey] Office of Emergency Management to assist fellow residents as we change from our civilian attire and put on our uniforms to serve this state…. Our most likely mission sets are focused on capability gaps.” said Brig. Gen. Jemal Beale, adjutant general of New Jersey. “They are things like advise and assist, logistics, transportation, traffic control, security or bringing in our engineers to maybe bring a facility back online that’s needed in some way, shape or form for COVID-19.”
Gov. Murphy said the role of the Guardsmen will likely focus on food delivery and manning drive-thru test locations in the intermediate — with the possibility of converting "a building for some self-quarantine reasons” if needed.
The New York National Guard now has 2,100 personnel on mission across the state, according to Col. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman.
This includes members of the New York Army and Air National Guard, the New York Guard (state defense force), and the New York Naval Militia.
Joint Task Forces are operating on Long Island, New York City, the Hudson Valley, Capital Region, Syracuse and Buffalo to support state and local government.
The New York National Guard is supporting the administration and setup of FEMA Field Hospitals in support of the State Department of Health and NYC officials at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.
Soldiers are assisting with the reception and setup of the infrastructure in the convention center’s 1.8 million square feet of space. Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that setting up the four 250-bed field hospitals at the site would take about a week to 10 days. The National Guard Soldiers will be supporting the 320 federal staff arriving to operate the site.
The New York National Guard continues to support six drive-through testing sites today on Long Island, Staten Island, and the Bronx and in Rockland and Westchester Counties. Testing is done arrange reservations made through the Department of Health based on physician orders.
New York National Guard personnel are continuing to support food packaging and in New Rochelle. Also in New Rochelle, Soldiers are continuing to clean places of worship in support of the city’s cleaning of public spaces. On March 25, they are expected to clean the Beth El Synagogue
New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are conducting logistics missions in support of the state response at warehouse locations. Hand sanitizer warehousing and deliveries continue across the lower Hudson Valley.
New York National Guard also continues to provide support the New York State Coronavirus Hotline by working in a call center in Rotterdam, N.Y. to offer updated information to the public. Other Soldiers support a call center mission in New York City.
The North Carolina National Guard is currently working on the front lines of this pandemic with our department of public safety team and other state agencies. There are currently 61 North Carolina Army and Air Guardsmen supporting the COVID19 response with 17 vehicles in the following areas: Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Mocksville. The 17 vehicles supporting these force packages are: cargo trucks (MTVs) and Humvees. Their missions are to support warehouse and commodity management and distribution in the RaleighDurham area and Charlotte area.
These experienced guardsmen and women have executed this exact mission (warehouse operations and commodities distribution) with emergency management during recent Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. The North Carolina National Guard is ready to respond with additional resources and capabilities depending on the needs of the state, and as ordered by the governor.
The Oregon National Guard is also providing support and on Thursday announced that approximately 25 Citizen-Soldiers are assisting the Oregon Health Authority with the setup of a medical facility in Salem, Oregon.
Officials say the assistance ranges from Military Department Civilians providing maintenance and mechanical support, to uniformed personnel setting up facilities for civilian medical personnel.
Guardsmen have coordinated with Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Military Department, Department of Homeland Security, Oregon Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections and other state local and non-governmental agencies.
Gov. Tom Wolf has activated 50 National Guard personnel to serve as “subject matter expert planners to assist the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency," the National Guard Bureau said.
“One of the most important National Guard missions is to support our own communities,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, adjutant general of Pennsylvania. “Assisting and serving our fellow neighbors is a very personal effort as this is where we live. We are all in this together.”
Guardsmen will also be supporting dozens of Pennsylvania residents who had previously been quarantined at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia, after departing from the Grand Princess cruise ship.
The Puerto Rico National Guard has been activated by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced to screen passengers arriving on the island via the airport and cruise ship ports. This mobilization follows extended missions to respond to multiple hurricanes and earthquakes.
“We are currently structuring this new mission to support the mitigation and control efforts of state and federal agencies in response to the COVID-19 emergency,” said Brig. Gen. Miguel Méndez, commanding officer of Task Force-Puerto Rico, in a press release. “Our staff is being evaluated and trained for this new contingency and is being deployed at Luis Muñoz Marín Airport to carry out the assigned functions.”
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has also activated a handful of National Guard personnel to State Active Duty Status. Currently, around ten Guardsmen are “providing response planners, liaisons and support to the state Emergency Operations Center, and logistics support,” according to officials.
The state has confirmed 23 positive cases with over 300 pending results, according to state health officials.
National Guard activation powers
A state’s governor may activate the National Guard under “State Active Duty” status “in response to natural or man-made disasters or Homeland Defense missions.” In this capacity, guardsmen remain “command and control” of the governor and are sourced and paid for by the state, according to the National Guard Bureau.
Across 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia, there are approximately 450,000 Air and Army National Guard personnel who “frequently train side-by-side with state and local emergency responders” in domestic operations, the National Guard Bureau noted.
A governor may also activate the guardsmen to support other states through assistance agreements in a multi-state response to an emergency, although the funding comes from the federal government under Title 32 U.S.C. status. No states have sent personnel to neighboring states thus far.
“The National Guard has unique capabilities such as its Civil Support Teams and [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFPs)] that could provide local first responders with additional resources to combat COVID-19,” the previous release added.
“20 National Guard Civil Support Teams (CSTs) have provided COVID-19 response support by conducting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training for first responders at the request of civilian agencies,” a National Guard Bureau press release stated. “CST professionals’ HAZMAT and biohazard expertise make them well-suited for training how to properly don and maintain PPE.”
The defense secretary retains the authority to order National Guard forces to active duty under Title 10U.S.C. when “necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest,” according to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Response Framework.
As of Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper did not allude to plans to federalize National Guard components.
This story will continue to be updated as the National Guard Bureau releases daily reports on National Guard activities nationwide. If you or someone you know has been called up to State Active Duty status, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested in sharing about your experience.
Dylan Gresik is a reporting intern for Military Times through Northwestern University's Journalism Residency program.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.