The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 18,500 Air and Army National Guard professionals are supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors.
That’s an increase of about 1,250 Guard troops since Wednesday.
In addition, 11 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have been approved for use of federal funds for state missions under Title 32, with another 26 requests moving through the approval process, Guard officials say.
That list includes California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. That’s one more state receiving federal funds since Wednesday.
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 and its territories:
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.
There are 1,615 Florida National Guardsmen have been activated in support of COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon, according to 1st Lt. Tahisha Coleman, a spokeswoman. The state’s request for 502(f) funding was approved March 31 for 30 days and up to 3,000 Guardsmen.
The Florida National Guard continues to support the state’s COVID-19 response through operational support of community-based testing sites, augmentation to airport screening measures, statewide logistics support, coordination, planning and operational mission sets.
The Florida National Guard supports CBTS in Broward, Miami/Hard Rock Stadium, Orange County, Miami-Dade/Marlins Park and Palm Beach County continued sampling operations. To date, the FLNG has assisted in the testing of more than 18,250 individuals for the COVID-19 virus.
Additionally, the FLNG continues to conduct a wide variety of operations in support of the state’s COVID-19 response:
*Supporting 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.
*Activating medical professionals, Army Combat Medic specialists and Air Force Medical technicians in support of the Florida Department of Health’s community-based testing sites. Florida Guardsmen have reported in and formed Task Force Medical.
*Augmenting the State Logistics Readiness Center, the State’s Logistics Branch, as well as facilitate statewide logistics needs.
*Augmenting the State Emergency Operations Center and local emergency management offices across the state.
*Logistics professionals continue to support the State’s Emergency Operations Centers as well as sustaining mobilized FLNG personnel.
In efforts to ensure the health and safety of our personnel, Florida Guard members, performing duties at the SLRC, are now receiving screenings and temperature checks two times a day.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Hawaii National Guard has about 150 soldiers and airmen on State Active Duty supporting contingency planning and operational planning (medical support, security, traffic control, assistance at airports) and conducting Joint Reception Staging, Onward movement and Integration processing of large groups coming on to State Active Duty.
Additionally, the HING is assisting with passenger screening at the Honolulu International Airport and providing medical support to the Hawaii healthcare system.
The HING Joint Staff has established a Joint Operations Center to manage its response and is preparing to stand up Joint Task Force and a Dual Status Command, if required.
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 has more than 1,200 Soldiers and Airmen assisting with COVID19 response, to include distributing critical medical supplies statewide.
*The commodities distribution mission has yielded more than 360,000 N95 masks, 1.2 million gloves, 300 ventilators, and nearly 50,000 Tyvek suits delivered to testing sites throughout the state.
*In this instance, rather than saving lives in Louisiana using high water vehicles and helicopters, Guard men and women are saving lives by ensuring critical medical supplies like ventilators get where they need to go in a timely fashion.
Presently 347 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are actively supporting the state's COVID-19 response and an additional 6,600 Guard members stand ready to assist. Additionally, approximately 160 MING members are mobilized federally under the operational control of U.S. Army North to FEMA in regions V, VI, and VII.
Across eight counties MING members are supporting requests from local communities and state agencies with a variety of response missions that include: food distribution, Strategic National Stockpile support, screening operations, reception and staging, supply and logistics management, state Emergency Operations Center staff augmentation, and alternate care facility planning.
Joint Task Force – Michigan includes more than 100 National Guard members who are responsible for the coordination of Guard response efforts across the state.
The Minnesota National Guard has 150 soldiers and airmen supporting COVID-19 response in some way.
The New York National Guard has more than 2,800 personnel on mission across the state. 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. An additional Dual Status Command Task Force leads efforts to employ active and National Guard military resources primarily in New York City.
The Dual Status Command continues supporting the care for patients at the Jacob Javits Center FEMA field hospital. U.S. Army medical personnel from the 9th and 531st Hospital Centers, part of the 44th Medical Brigade, staff the center for patient treatment. NYNG members continue to manage the site as the unified command post for the multi-agency response at the Javits Center.
Additional NYNG missions include:
*The Guard continues support at seven drive-thru testing sites.
*Food packaging and distribution in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan in New York City; as well as similar missions in Westchester County in New Rochelle and Albany County for the City of Albany.
*Logistics missions in support of the state response, including warehousing and commodity distribution at sites in the Hudson Valley, the Albany area, and Mohawk Valley. Hand sanitizer warehousing and deliveries continue today across the lower Hudson Valley.
*Logistics support to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, NYNG personnel are working with members of the Medical Examiner’s Office to assist in the dignified removal of human remains when required.
*Providing support to the New York State Coronavirus Hotline by working call centers in Rotterdam, Schenectady and Brooklyn to offer updated information to the public.
*Soldiers are also on call to assist Department of Health officials at the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany for packaging COVID 19 test kits.
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.”
Puerto Rico National Guard has 544 soldiers and airmen working directly in support of the COVID-19 response.
The PRNG is collaborating with island medical schools, and more than 60 medical students are supporting the screening and triage mission in the five airports around the island.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 45,646 people medically evaluated and temperatures screened by PRNG soldiers and airmen at all five airports on the island. Of those, 153 passengers were referred for additional screening at the airports triage areas; 55 passengers were tested for COVID-19, counseled and sent home under the PR Department of Health supervision and their family doctor; and 130 passengers have been referred for home domiciliary quarantine.
In coordination with FEMA, PRNG soldiers installed a portable mobile hospital in Mayaguez, on the west side of the island.
The Washington National Guard has 130 soldiers and airmen that will be supporting food banks starting this week through the month of April. Citizen airmen and soldiers will support 11 food banks throughout the state. Guardsmen are assistance during this health crisis by transporting, packaging and distribution of food to homes, community-based locations and partner agencies in neighboring communities.
Washington also has a Dual Status Commander and our Joint Task Force activated to support activities in the state.
Currently, more than 420 members of the West Virginia National Guard are serving the state of West Virginia.
*Over the last 24 hours, experts from the WVNG Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Enterprise task force conducted 20 training missions today for retailers, food establishments and convenience stores in proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear.
*Food bank missions — packed and distributed 2,007 meals from two locations using refrigerated trucks to deliver 5,500 meals today.
*Data analysis and contact tracing for 430 engagements and eight expedited specimen transfers to the West Virginia state lab. Soldiers are working two drive-through testing sites in the state.
*The state logistics team delivered critical personal protective equipment to all 55 counties in West Virginia, yesterday.
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.