The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow a day after New Jersey National Guard Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok died, the first service member to succumb from COVID-19..
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 17,250 Air and Army National Guard professionals are supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors.
That’s an increase of nearly 1,000 Guard troops since Tuesday.
In addition, 10 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have been approved for use of federal funds for state missions under Title 32, with another 27 requests moving through the approval process, Guard officials say.
That list includes California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. That’s double the number of states receiving federal funds since Tuesday.
In addition, 22 states and two territories have approved use of Dual-Status Commanders.
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.
“This response isn’t just about delivering food or supporting COVID test centers. It’s about protecting our children, parents and grandparents," said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau. “Our nation is looking to the National Guard to help and we can’t let them down.”
On March 27, Secretary of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper modified and accelerated the process by which the Department of Defense authorizes the use of National Guard forces under Title 32 Section 502(f). The modification creates a conditional pre-authorization in response to Federal Emergency Management Agency requests that ensures quicker federal funding for state National Guard forces mobilizing to aid in whole-of-government COVID-19 response efforts.
“This authorization enables [governors] timely use of the National Guard to save lives and protect public health and safety," Esper said in a March 27 letter to each governor. “The men and women of the National Guard are Citizen-Soldiers who stand ready to serve their communities as we fight COVID-19.”
National Guard support focuses on supporting a wide variety of mission sets ranging from community-based testing sites and creating enhanced medical capacity, to facilitating logistical support.
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 .
Last week, 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 last week 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:
*Full time 24 hour state Emergency Operations Center staffing to synchronize National Guard efforts with local and state mission partners to plan and execute an effective response;
*Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase medical capacity;
*Supporting warehouse operations and logistics efforts to help deliver critical supplies;
*Delivering food in hard-hit communities;
*Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice.
*Providing critical Personal Protective Equipment training and delivery to civilian first responders;
*Performing sample collection and delivery to medical personnel;
*Providing support and symptoms screening to testing facilities and passenger terminals;
*Providing transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers.
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.
Here are the latest updates of National Guard actions across the United States:
Arizona Guard members are unloading trucks at grocery stores, keeping products available to people in the communities.
The Arkansas National Guard is providing triage support at the University of Arkansas Medical Center. The mobile triage center has improved operations flow and decreased patient volume into the emergency department. Additionally, 107 patients were triaged by Arkansas National Guard personnel.
The California National Guard is leveraging some of its highly-trained leaders to manage food banks.
Florida Guard members have assisted in the testing of nearly 12,000 people for the COVID-19 virus.
As of Tuesday, the Florida National Guard has 1,567 men and women activated in support of COVID-19. Support includes, but is not limited to providing operational support of Community Based Testing Sites; augmentation to airport screening measures; and statewide logistics support, coordination, planning and operational mission sets. The West Palm Beach County Community Based Testing Sites will begin public testing by appointments, today.
The FLNG continues to support the Florida Department of Health and airport authorities in application of the Governor’s order to conduct screenings at airports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Palm Beach International, and Fort 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. Department of Health continues to supply the required personal protective equipment enabling Guard men and women to conduct the support requirements.
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 are on site and have formed Task Force Medical.
Guard personnel have been activated to augment the State Logistics Readiness Center, the State’s Logistics Branch, as well as facilitate statewide logistics needs of the Guard formations on mission. Logistics professionals continue to support the State’s Emergency Operations Centers, as well as sustain the mobilized personnel. Guard personnel performing duties at the logistics readiness center have to be screened twice daily and receive temperature checks.
Florida Guard men and women will 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.
The Illinois National Guard is supporting Community Based Testing Sites on the Northwest side of Chicago. The testing is specifically for medical personnel and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
Iowa National Guard activates regional support group and continues COVID-19 response efforts with the activation of approximately 75 soldiers from the 734th Regional Support Group, based at Camp Dodge in Johnston, on March 27.
Additionally, soldiers assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 734th Regional Support Group and its subordinate units, the 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, out of Camp Dodge, and the 1133rd Transportation Company, out of Mason City, will provide additional logistical and transportation assets to the fight against COVID-19.
The Iowa National Guard continues deliveries of vital medical personal protective equipment to more than 20 distribution sites. In conjunction with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, soldiers delivered approximately 32 pallets to 23 county distribution centers, bringing the total distribution of 166 pallets to more than 75 counties across the state since distribution missions began March 24.
In addition, eight soldiers from the 186th Military Police Company, out of Camp Dodge, delivered and assembled two tents to the Central Iowa Veterans Administration Healthcare System in Des Moines Friday. These tents will be used to help screen those entering the hospital for COVID-19.
Currently there are now more than 120 Soldiers and Airmen on duty supporting a variety of COVID-19 response missions across the state.
The Louisiana National Guard’s 62nd Civil Support Team is providing training on the proper donning and doffing of Personnel Protective Equipment to health care providers and emergency management staff at the Morial Convention Center.
The New York National Guard has 2,780 personnel on missions across the state as of Wednesday afternoon. The NYNG is supporting five drive-thru testing sites, supporting testing for more than 3,000 people a day.
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. In New York City, NYNG personnel continue to support the arrival of the city’s first patients at the Jacob Javits Center FEMA field hospital, additionally NYNG continue to manage the site as the unified command post for the multi-agency response at the Javits Center.
U.S. Army medical personnel from the 9th and 531st Hospital Centers, part of the 44th Medical Brigade, staff the center for patient treatment. The 531st is from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 9th from Fort Hood, Texas.
New York established a dual-status commander, New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Michel Natali, the New York National Guard’s Assistant Adjutant General, Army, to command both National Guard and active duty forces operating in the state.
The NYNG is also providing logistics support to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City. Guardsmen will work with members of the Medical Examiner’s Office to assist in the dignified removal of human remains when required.
Over the weekend, 25 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen on state active duty provided logistical assistance to FEMA at the Glen Mills School as they unloaded federal equipment to establish a federal medical station.
Federal, state and local assets are coming together to open this facility which can house non-COVID 19 patients with less severe conditions if and when regional hospitals become full.
The Soldiers are from the 103rd Engineer Battalion, a unit which traces its origins to the Associators, constituted in 1747 in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin. They spent two days unloading trucks, unpacking boxes and setting up beds.
“We were one part of a team of teams coming together to support the local community,” said Maj. Joseph D. Martinkis, commander of the 103rd Engineer Battalion. “Being able to work alongside these civilian authorities is part of the diverse skill set held by our National Guardsmen.”
Currently, more than 400 members of the West Virginia National Guard are serving the state of West Virginia by augmenting civil authorities, according to Maj. Holli Nelson, a spokeswoman.
Troops are serving West Virginia through four lines of effort to include operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies and conducting data analysis to combat the virus.
Since the last update, the WVNG logistical team received shipment of critical medical personal protective equipment from the strategic national stockpile (SNS). Today, 117,400 gloves; 13,151 gowns; 19,813 surgical masks; 35,215 N95 masks; 693 face shields and 58 coveralls were distributed by the WVNG West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHRR) and the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM) to all 55 counties in the state.
Over the last 24 hours, Guard members supported food bank missions in Gassaway and Huntington, packing more than 2,200 meals for West Virginia’s most vulnerable populations. Assistance was also provided through the use of two refrigerated trucks to distribute meals around the state.
The WVNG team of data analysts who work hand-in-hand with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support over 300 contact tracing engagements to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
Additional Guard personnel are working two drive through testing sites in Huntington and Grafton and will support additional vetted sites as they come online.
Experts from the WVNG Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (CRE) have identified a network of more than 200 interested retailers, food establishments and convenience stores who are interested in proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear training. The WVNG will support those requests in the coming days and weeks in addition to training offered to healthcare providers and first responders.
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.