The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.
As of Monday morning, nearly 22,000 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 700 Guard troops since Sunday.
In addition, 21 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have now been approved for use of federal funds for state missions under Title 32, with another 20 requests moving through the approval process.
As of Monday morning, 303 Guard troops have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest figures provided by the Pentagon.
Aside from making it easier for governors to mobilize the Guard because Trump ordered the federal government to pick up the total tab, the move was supposed to allow troops mobilized under Title 32 to receive essentially the same benefits as active duty troops, including Tricare health insurance, points toward retirement and full GI Bill benefits.
However, Military Times first reported that because the Title 32 activation only lasts for 30 days, troops would fall one day short of the required 31 to receive Tricare health insurance or an upgrade to the Basic Allowance for Housing.
A spokesman for the Maryland National Guard says that it’s expected the activation will soon be ordered for 45 days, however, allowing those benefits to kick in.
“Although we expect to receive authorization for up to 45 days, at present we do not have Title 32 authority beyond 30 days,” Lt. Col. Wayde Minami of the Maryland Air National Guard told Military Times. “This isn’t just a question of getting troops the benefits they deserve, but one of ensuring they have what they need to stay focused on the mission without having to worry about how they’ll find the money to pay the rent or cover dependents’ medical bills if they become ill.”
Military.com first reported that a letter signed by Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead says Guard officials expect the White House to authorize an expanded FEMA Mission Assignment timeline — increased to 45 days from 30. Crucially, Guard troops must be mobilized for 31 days or longer to receive the higher BAH rates and health benefits through Tricare.
National Guard Bureau leadership is aware of the issue regarding the duration of Title 32 orders and access to Tricare, said April Cunningham, a spokeswoman, in an email to Military Times.
“Our understanding is the length of orders for Title 32 is still in coordination,” she said.
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 Lengyel. “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.”
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:
The Arizona National Guard recently flew 300 sets of masks and gowns to a medical facility in the Navajo Nation town of Kayenta. The shipment also included some 2,000 gloves for healthcare workers. Several dozen guardsmen are working on building an alternate care facility in that area.
The Arkansas National Guard has more than 90 soldiers and airmen on state active duty, performing more than 13 different missions in support of the Arkansas Department of Health, in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Missions include: medical prescreening and testing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital; call center operations at ADH; physicians-specific call center at ADH; liaison operations and medical planning and information analysis to support logistics planning at both ADH and Arkansas Division of Emergency Management; Strategic National Stockpile distribution logistics assistance; and engineer team support to ADH and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for assessments and construction of alternate care facilities.
California Air National Guardsmen are assisting with the construction and setup of an alternate care site at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The temporary facility will provide 250 beds for non-COVID patients.
The Florida National Guard currently has 2,320 in a mobilized status, and will finalize the staging of the 550 soldiers to serve as a ready unit should the state require general support to its humanitarian assistance efforts.
Florida’s COVID-19 response continues through operational support of community-based testing sites, augmentation to airport screening measures, statewide logistics support, coordination, planning and operational mission sets. To date, the FLNG has assisted in the testing of more 24,480 individuals for the COVID-19 virus.
The FLNG supports the following community-based testing sites: Broward; Miami, Hard Rock Stadium; Orange County; Miami-Dade, Marlins Park; and Palm Beach County. Two additional sites are expected to be operational this week: Miami-Dade at Amelia Earhart Park starting April 6, and a second CBTS in Palm Beach beginning April 7.
Additionally, FLNG supports the screening of individuals at seven airports throughout the state.
Medical and logistical planners from the FLNG are actively assessing PPE requirements to minimize the risk while reducing daily expenditures in order to extend FLNG mission support.
On April 3 the Incident Commander for the COVID-19 response, and Adjutant General of the Hawaii National Guard, Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, partially activated the Hawaii National Guard Joint Task Force and four units of the Hawaii Army National Guard and then named Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi Jr. as its Commander. More than 340 Guardsmen are expected to be activated to assist the county and state with civil support missions.
Among those missions, HING soldiers and airmen will be supporting the Hawaii Department of Transportation with the medical screening of incoming and departing passengers as well as airline crew at five Hawaii airports: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and Hilo International Airport starting April 6, with support for Kahului Airport, Lihue Airport, and the Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole beginning soon.
The Guardsmen will be located at the passenger arrival gates and TSA security checkpoints to assist HDOT staff with medical screening that has been put in place during the COVID-19 crisis. Arriving passengers from domestic and international destinations, as well as departing interisland passengers will have their temperature taken to determine if an additional medical screening is necessary.
The Idaho National Guard has 40 soldiers and airmen assisting food pantries at three locations throughout the state. These personnel are helping prepare food boxes and assisting with food distribution to members of the community.
In addition, two soldiers and two airmen are conducting forklift and logistics activities at local warehouses.
The IDNG had personnel assisting with offloading FEMA supplies as they arrive in state and the IDNG delivered 150 cots to Idaho Power to enable the utility service to conduct 24-hour operations if necessary.
Idaho National Guard personnel are supporting the Idaho Office of Emergency Management in their Emergency Operations Center and the IDNG’s Joint Operations Center has been mission planning and processing Soldiers and Airmen as they come forward to support these missions.
The Illinois National Guard is establishing mobile testing sites in Chicago and Bloomington, conducting assessments for alternate care facilities and providing medical support to one Illinois Department of Corrections facility.
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.
The Maine National Guard is constructing shelters outside Togus Virginia Medical Center, in Augusta, to conduct health screening prior to entry. The MENG is also conducting warehouse operations for the Maine CDC and distributing respirators and medical supplies to civilian agencies.
As of Friday, more than 1,500 Maryland National Guard members continue to support Marylanders with about 700 Citizen-Warriors on stand-by in an enhanced readiness status. Recently, airmen from the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing processed more than one million medical supply items from the Strategic National Stockpile, distributing masks, gloves and other protective equipment to health care workers and hospitals across the state.
The Massachusetts National Guard is working with state agencies to distribute PPE from the state stockpile to critical areas across the commonwealth
Currently, nearly 460 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are actively supporting the state's COVID-19 response. An additional 6,600 MING service members are ready to assist.
Across nine counties, members of the National Guard are supporting requests from our local communities and state agencies. Response missions 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 (JTF-MI) includes more than 100 National Guard members to coordinate National Guard response efforts across the state.
The Minnesota National Guard has 150 soldiers and airmen supporting COVID-19 response in some way.
The Montana National Guard is conducting temperature screenings at 11 airports and train stations across the state and also assisting with planning at the State Emergency Management Agency.
The New York National Guard has 2,875 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.
A Dual Status Command Task Force under the command of Brig. Gen. Michel Natali, the assistant Adjutant General, Army, leads efforts to employ active and National Guard military resources in New York City.
The Dual Status Command is coordinating the expansion of the Jacob Javits Center FEMA field hospital to care for COVID-19 patients. The center expanded capacity to now accommodate some 2,500 beds and staff of the 531st and 9th Hospital Centers, both part of the 44th Medical Brigade, are providing care for patients at the site, providing relief for New York City hospitals. A current expansion plan is expected to provide for a new total of 4,200 patient beds.
An additional 325 medical personnel from the Department of Defense arrived April 5 for staffing the Javits expansion and augmenting local New York City hospital staff.
Members of the NYNG continue to manage the site as the unified command post for the multiagency response at the Javits Center and are supporting logistical operations at the site.
The New York National Guard continues support at seven drive-thru testing sites. Sites are located at SUNY Stony Brook, Jones Beach State Park, Staten Island, and Glen Island State Park in Westchester County, the Anthony Wayne Service area in Rockland County, Lehman College and the Bay Plaza Mall in the Bronx. Soldiers and airmen are collecting sample and providing general-purpose support at the testing locations, now exceeding 5,000 tests per day in total.
Two additional sites with National Guard assistance begin operations today. One at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, and the second at SUNY at Albany campus.
National Guard personnel continue food packaging and distribution in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan in New York City. Similar missions continue in Westchester County in New Rochelle and Albany County. NYNG members have helped in the distribution of 337,358 meals in New York City alone, with thousands more in Westchester and Albany counties.
New York soldiers and airmen are also conducting logistics missions, including warehousing and commodity distribution of medical supplies at sites in the Hudson Valley, the Albany area, and
Mohawk Valley. These missions have included delivery of ventilators from New York State Department of Health stockpiles to hospitals in need.
Hand sanitizer warehousing and deliveries continue today across the lower Hudson Valley. Nearly 30,000 gallons of hand sanitizer has been delivered by National Guard personnel to local governments.
The NYNG continues to provide logistics support to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City. National Guard personnel are working with members of the Medical Examiner’s Office to assist in the dignified removal of human remains when required.
New York National Guard also continues to provide 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 speaking with more than 5,000 callers on average a day.
Soldiers continue packaging COVID-19 test kits for the New York State Department of Health at the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany. They assembled 23,000 kits distribution across the state.
The Oregon National Guard is assisting the Department of Administrative Services with setting up 24-hour warehouse operations for receipt and distribution of all PPE received in the State. Additionally, the ORNG is supplying planners to the State Emergency Management Agency.
The Pennsylvania National Guard has approximately 850 personnel supporting COVID-19 operations.
Most recently the PNG delivered 125 special needs cots from Norristown State Hospital to the FEMA Field Hospital located at Temple University in north Philadelphia. The facility will be used as alternate care facility for patent care should hospitals in the region become overwhelmed treating patience amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The PNG is also continuing support to the Pittsburgh food bank and the Montgomery County Community Testing site.
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 Tennessee National Guard is supporting the state Department of Health in operating 35 testing sites across the state. Additionally, the Tennessee Guardsmen are operating PPE donation sites and distributing the PPE to first responders and hospitals, as well as assisting FEMA and DOH with building medical surge capacity in high risk areas.
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, nearly 460 West Virginia National Guard personnel are serving the state 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. That number will reach more than 500 on duty next week.
Six WVNG members are assisting Workforce West Virginia to increase capacity for the state to process unemployment claims. An additional nine personnel will begin work on April 6, with 15 later in the week.
Recently, the WVNG communications team, in conjunction with Marshall University and West Virginia University, tested network capabilities for telehealth initiatives in Wharton, where connectivity is sparse. An additional test will take place in Hundred April 6. This team is also assisting St. Francis Hospital with telecommunications expansion and wiring needs.
The WVNG Logistics team delivered seven ventilators to CAMC, Memorial, Ruby Memorial, Princeton, Camden-Clark, and Beckley Area Regional Hospital, as well as 10 powered, airpurifying respirators with filters to West Virginia University Hospital in Martinsburg. The team also delivered 275 gallons of hand sanitizer to senior service centers in Harrison, Kanawha, Raleigh, Cabell and Randolph counties.
WVNG members conducted nearly 30 training missions for retailers, food establishments, convenience stores and local first responders in proper cargo, box handling and personal protective equipment wear. Next week, this team is also planning for 50 mobile training sessions with healthcare providers and first responders for some of the areas in the state with higher numbers of positive cases, including Monongalia and surrounding counties.
Guard members supported food bank missions in Gassaway and Huntington, packing 1,889 meals for West Virginia’s most vulnerable populations and provided one refrigerated truck to distribute 4,500 meals to Putnam County.
Guard personnel continue working two drive through testing sites in Huntington and Grafton and will provide support in Lewis County starting Monday and Mingo County starting April 10.
Currently the Wisconsin National Guard has approximately 350 members mobilized to state active duty, including soldiers and airmen from the Whitewater-based 457th Chemical Company; the Waukesha-based 135th Medical Company; and the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison.
The WING recently dispatched a 30-member team to the Sunny Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Sheboygan to establish a mobile testing site and perform COVID-19 specimen collection. The soldiers and airmen tested facility staff and residents in support of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.
Additionally, the WING established drive-thru specimen collection for facility staff before moving inside to collect samples from residents in support of the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.
The WING is also actively supporting the Wisconsin Elections Commission with the state’s April 7 election.
Wisconsin troops are conducting warehousing operations in support of Wisconsin DHS where they are receiving personal protective equipment shipments at warehouses, repackaging it, and then distributing it to sites that need PPE.
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.