The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic increased significantly Tuesday.
There are now nearly 27,000 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 5,000 Guard troops since Monday.
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.
The list includes California, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas , U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington.
As of Tuesday morning, 314 Guard troops had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest figures provided by the Pentagon. That’s an increase of 11 from Monday.
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.
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.
Currently 95 soldiers and airmen are serving in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Missions include: patient call center; physician call center; patient screening and testing drive-through; logistics planning; liaisons; medical surge planning; medical supply handling and distribution; and alternate care facility assessments and planning
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 2,325 soldiers and airmen in a mobilized status.
Members of the FLNG continue supporting 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.
To date, the FLNG has assisted in the testing of more than 26,640 individuals for the COVID-19 virus.
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.
The Iowa National Guard delivered 280 pallets of medical supplies to 90 counties.
The Kentucky National Guard is supporting set up of an alternate care site in the Louisville Expo Center.
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
The Michigan National Guard has 488 soldiers and airmen actively supporting the state's COVID-19 response. Across nine counties members of the MING 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.
Currently, Joint Task Force – Michigan includes more than 100 MING members to coordinate National Guard response efforts across the state.
Minnesota National Guard men and women are cutting fabric, laundering, and distributing masks to be worn by mission essential personnel in various agencies throughout the state.
The Missouri National Guard set up nine alternate care sites.
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.
Currently the New York National Guard has 2,910 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.
Expansion of the Jacob Javits Center continues. The center capacity now accommodates some 2,500 beds and staff. NYNG members continue to manage the site and its conversion. The NYNG also continues support at nine drive-thru testing sites; they supported more than 5,645 tests for the community April 6 alone.
National Guard personnel continue food packaging and distribution. Additionally, New York soldiers and airmen are also conducting logistics missions, including warehousing and commodity distribution of medical supplies. These missions include delivery of ventilators from New York State Department of Health stockpiles to hospitals in need.
Hand sanitizer warehousing and deliveries continue, with more than 30,000 gallons of hand sanitizer delivered by National Guard personnel to local governments to date.
The New York National Guard 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 and 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 assemble about 11,000 kits per day for distribution across the state.
The North Dakota National Guard set up a 200-bed alternate care site in Fargo, North Dakota.
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.
Rhode Island National Guard members helped open a fourth COVID-19 testing site capable of testing 1,000 people per day.
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 Vermont National Guard helped increase the bed capacity from 150 to 300 at alternate care sites.
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.
West Virginia currently has more than 490 soldiers and airmen on duty. Current WVNG missions include:
*The West Virginia National Guard is helping increase capacity for the state to process unemployment claims, as 15 members of the WVNG are assisting Workforce West Virginia. That number will increase to 30 personnel by April 8.
*WVNG personnel assisted in COVID-19 testing of more than 150 residents and staff from a nursing home in Charleston, West Virginia.
*The WVNG communications team recently assisted St. Francis Hospital by rewiring phone lines as former office spaces are turned into COVID-19 treatment rooms.
*Members of the logistics team packaged 825 gallons of hand sanitizer for distribution and picked up additional PPE from Maryland. Later this week, our logistics personnel will provide assistance at St. Francis Hospital by converting space to support COVID-19 patients.
*WVNG has distributed 2,700 meals throughout Pleasants, Ritchie, Barbour and Gilmer counties.
*Epidemiology teams supported 77 contact-tracing engagements and assisting with 17 expedited specimen transfers.
*Guard personnel continue working drive through testing sites in Huntington, Grafton and Lewis County, and will expand support to Wyoming and Mingo counties later this week.
More than 2,400 Wisconsin National Guard members mobilized to state active duty to support the Wisconsin Elections Commission and county clerks across Wisconsin in the state’s upcoming election.
Guard members completed Wisconsin Elections Commission-provided training for poll workers and other roles at a polling station. WEC developed a series of training videos for chief inspectors, election inspectors, voter registration and new roles like helping with line management and polling station hygiene.
The WING also assisted the WEC leading up to the election by procuring and distributing items necessary to ensure safe and sanitary polling sites around the state such as hand sanitizer, wipes, spray bottles, and more.
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.