The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.
As of Friday morning, there are more than 12,300 Air and Army National Guard professionals are supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors. That’s an increase of almost 1,000 troops since Thursday.
In addition, 11 states and two territories have approved use of Dual-Status Commanders, giving them the authority to command active and reserve component troops under control of a state’s governor. That’s up from eight on Thursday.
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.
“Thanks to the 12,300 plus National Guard men and women responding to this crisis across the nation," Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau, said in a media release. “Know that what you do in your state is part of a nation-wide effort to combat this virus.
“We talk about this as 54 separate hurricane, but COVID-19 knows no state boundaries,” said Lengyel. “What we do in one state has implications for all states. You are impacting how fast we get this massive American machine up and running again. Thanks for all you are doing.”
National Guard support focuses on supporting community based testing sites and creating enhanced medical capacity. Guard officials once again repeated that this is not an effort to enforce martial law.
“We are here to protect our communities, not police them," said Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Director of the Army National Guard .
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 actions across the United States:
The Florida National Guard has 1,486 activated in support of COVID-19 providing operational support of Community Based Testing Sites (CBTS), augmentation to airport screening measures, statewide logistics support, coordination, planning and operational mission sets, according to 1st. Lt. Tahisha Coleman, a spokeswoman.
To date, Guard personnel have assisted in the testing of more than 8,800 individuals for the COVID-19 virus.
The Florida National Guard has been asked to support the Florida Dept. of Health and airport authorities in application of the Governor’s order to conduct screening on passengers inbound from Calif., Wash., N.Y. and N.J. at major airports. Screenings are now being conducted at airports in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Palm Beach International and Ft. Myers. 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 medical professionals, Army Combat Medic Specialists, and Air Force Medical Technicians in support of the Florida Department of Health’s Community Based Testing Sites. Guard personnel have reported in and formed Task Force Medical.
Florida Guard personnel have been activated to augment the State Logistics Readiness Center (SLRC), the State’s Logistics Branch, as well as facilitate statewide logistics needs for the Florida National Guard formations on mission. In addition Guard personnel will support the SLRC in their 24-hours-a-day operations. Guard logistics professionals continue to support the State’s Logistics Branch in order to maintain visibility on both State and Federal commodities, better enabling personnel to have required personal protective equipment and sampling kits to conduct mission support.
The Florida National Guard has activated Guardsmen to augment the State Emergency Operations Center and local emergency management offices across the state.
The Hawaii National Guard is continuing to support the state’s response to COVID-19 with more than 100 Soldiers and Airmen on State Active Duty (SAD) status.
Air National Guard members, from Medical Detachment 1, provided logistical support with personal protective equipment (PPE), and maintenance of valuable medical equipment at the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management Coalition facilities. The PPE will be distributed to multiple Hawaii medical facilities facing an equipment shortage due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management Coalition is a statewide, federally-qualified, allhazards comprehensive emergency management program whose mission is to sustain and maintain essential and critical healthcare system services statewide during a major emergency or disaster.
Along with logistics and organizing distribution, Guard members also took inventory of the medical supplies on-hand.
Approximately 40 Soldiers from the 67th Troop Command, based in Iowa City, were activated on March 26 to augment the state’s COVID-19 response in eastern Iowa.
Soldiers assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 67th Troop Command established an operations and planning cell at the Iowa City Readiness Center to analyze, prepare and coordinate Iowa National Guard support to county, state and federal agencies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the eastern half of the state.
In addition to activating these additional Soldiers, the Iowa National Guard continues to support the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to ensure delivery of in demand medical supplies. Soldiers delivered approximately 66 pallets to 23 county distribution centers, Thursday. These pallets contained medical personal protective equipment used by healthcare workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Iowa National Guard has delivered nearly 140 pallets of protective equipment to 55 counties across the state since these distribution missions began on March 24.
There are now more than 90 soldiers and airmen on duty supporting a variety of COVID-19 response missions across the state.
The New York National Guard now has 2,200 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.
Six Joint Task Forces are operating on Long Island, New York City, the Hudson Valley, Capital Region, Syracuse and Buffalo to support state and local governments.
The New York National Guard is supporting the administration and reception of FEMA field hospitals in support of the State Department of Health and New York City officials at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.
Soldiers are assisting with the reception and inventory 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-thru testing sites today on Long Island, Staten Island, and the Bronx and in Rockland and Westchester counties. Testing is arranged by reservations made through the Department of Health
New York National Guard personnel are continuing to support food packaging in New Rochelle. Also in New Rochelle, Soldiers continue to support the city’s cleaning of public spaces. On March 26, they are expected to complete the cleaning of the Beth El Synagogue.
New York Soldiers and Airmen are also conducting logistics missions in support of the state response, including warehousing support and bulk distribution at five sites. Hand sanitizer warehousing and deliveries continue today across the lower Hudson Valley.
Support to local agencies for food distribution continues in Westchester County and New York City at nine locations.
“Going forward, our force will continue to be a leader in the state in the response to this public health threat. We are urging all West Virginians to join us in practicing proper hygiene, maintaining social distance and avoiding gathering of groups of people to ensure we can flatten the curve here in West Virginia and protect our most vulnerable population,”says Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard.
Currently, more than 250 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are serving the State of West Virginia by augmenting civil authorities through four lines of effort:
Operationalizing of the event
Stabilization of the population
Logistical movement of critical supplies
Information and analytics to combat the virus
This week, the WVNG has supported the state’s coordinated response to this public health emergency by providing experts in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) field to assist with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) wear and removal training for health care agencies and first responders, assisting with food box preparations and distribution in Gassaway and Greenbrier County, answering phone lines for the COVID-19 hotline, augmenting counties and agencies with liaison officers and building a robust logistical network for distribution of PPE across the sate.
In addition, the Guard is utilizing outside of the box approaches through a whole-of-society effort to fill any identified gaps and needs for the medical community while also developing a network of intelligence, public health and epidemiology experts who can provide trend analysis for our state leaders.
“The work that the National Guard has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time to assist our state is truly exceptional,” stated Hoyer. “These men and women have been working around the clock to develop plans, assist our healthcare facilities and workers, distribute critical supplies all while coming up with innovation solutions to the problem we are facing as a state and a nation.”
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.
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.