The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to increase.
There are 31,600 Air and Army National Guard professionals supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors as of Wednesday afternoon. That’s an increase of 1,600 from Tuesday.
In addition, there are now 40 states, three territories and the District of Columbia have now been approved for use of federal funds for state missions under Title 32. That’s an increase of four states on Title 32 status from Tuesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 546 Guard troops had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest figures provided by the Pentagon. That’s an increase of 24 from Tuesday.
Of the more than 30,000 Guard troops activited in the COVID-19 response, more than a half —16,500 as of Monday — are under Title 32 status. Those figures fluctuate regularly depending on how many missions are performed per state as validated by FEMA and ordered by President Donald Trump.
The status, ordered by Trump, means the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the cost, with control remaining in the hands of governors. It also means that those troops — risking thier health and that of their families by being on the front lines of the coronavirus fight — receive healthcare and increased housing allowance equal to active duty and reserve troops doing the same work.
There was an initial catch. Only troops on 31-day orders were eligible for the increased benefits. That problem, however, was since fixed by Trump.
But now there is another concern.
The National Guard Association of the United States, a non-profit service organization advocating on behalf of National Guard troop interests, is asking DoD to expand those benefits beyond the scope of the orders.
Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, wrote a letter to Matthew P. Donovan, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, asking the Pentagon for a “preemptive determination” to make transitional TRICARE available to Guardsmen once they leave Title 32 active duty, according to a NGAUS media release.
“Federal law is clear in its intent to provide all service members with transitional medical coverage after they serve during a war or national emergency,” Robinson wrote. "The problem is, Guard soldiers and airmen are mobilized under language — section 502(f) of Title 32 — that does not specifically mention such coverage.
"We are asking DoD to look beyond this particular provision, follow the intent of Congress and make the determination to support the health of these troops, not just when they are on duty, but also in the weeks that follow. This is critical given the unknowns of this virus."
Robinson said the issue highlights the need for Congress to revise the statute.
Because “these servicemembers are being deployed to a health emergency, with the risk of contracting the COVID virus, providing transitional health care as they demobilize is prudent,” Robinson wrote. “Soldiers and Airmen exposed to this virus deserve healthcare coverage for themselves and their families to ensure continuous protections in the event that they contract the illness.”
Officials from the Defense Department did not immeidately respond to a request for comment. The National Guard Bureau declined comment because the NGAUS statement is pre-decisional.
The Title 32 rollout has been a bureacratic nightmare, as it initially called for 30-day activations, which meant that te benefits kicking in at 31 days were unvailable. Some states, like Maryland, anticipating an extention, issued short-term Title 32 orders. Rescinding those orders and issuing new ones so that troops get their full benefits has been a challenging task.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Pentagon, National Guard Bureau and states are are coordinating efforts to bring more states on 31-day orders.
National Guard officials highlighted some of the efforts:
“We are neighbors helping neighbors. We live in the communities we serve,” Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said. "The Kentucky National Guard exemplified that spirit Monday as they began supporting their state’s first drive-through COVID-19 testing site. "
“We are citizens when we’re not in the uniform,” said 1st Lt. Corey Oney, Kentucky Army National Guard. “People should know that we’re Kentuckians for Kentuckians.”
“This will be a success as long as we are helping people,” Oney said. “People are scared right now. We can help them gain comfort by confirming that they don’t have [COVID-19]. If we can confirm that they do have it then they can get the help they need. There’s no more wondering.”
The Maryland National Guard is also dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable in their communities. The MDNG is working with the state health department to help safeguard people at nursing homes across the state. The state is deploying testing and care teams, which the National Guard may augment.
“The residents of these facilities are at high risk,” said Col. Eric Allely, the Maryland National Guard state surgeon. “We need to help identify and rapidly fill any resource gaps that the facilities may have due to the current pandemic with a focus on elevating the level of medical care typically available in these facilities.”
“In addition to protecting the residents of these facilities, our efforts help decompress the patient load in emergency rooms and hospitals, opening beds for the growing number of patients in need of those resources,” Allely said.
Earlier in the day, during a Pentagon press briefing he attended by phone, Army Lt. Col. Michael Eastridge of the Illinois National Guard, the operations officer for the Joint Task Force Illinois, talked about his state’s efforts, which covers over 15 missions carried out by roughly 500 servicemembers in support of the COVID-19 response.
Among other things, Eastridge said the ING is “supporting the build-out of” McCormick Place Convention Center Chicago as an alternate healthcare facility in collboration with the Army Corps of Engineers; operating multiple COVID-19 testing sites and assisting the Cook County Medical Examiner in the dignified transfer of remains from mortuaries and funeral homes.
In addition, “every service member received training and proper equipment,” he said. “If an area has potential for high-risk transmission" troops will recieve increated personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, face shields and gowns.
As far as testing, COVID-19 testing is available for service members if they have symptons, Eastridge said, adding that there are also chaplain services avaialbe for counseling.
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;
*Flying ventilators and other critical equipment to support response efforts in other states;
*Providing mortuary affairs assistance as needed with dignity and respect;
*Providing time saving support to local law enforcement, freeing officers to perform their duty in the communities they serve;
*Conducting force health protection assessments to ensure our Guardsmen are taken care of;
*Manufacturing, sewing and distributing masks for mission essential personnel;
*Building and outfitting alternate care facilities to alleviate stress on medical infrastructure;
*Supporting warehouse operations and logistics efforts to help deliver and distribute lifesaving medical equipment and critical supplies;
*Delivering and distributing food in hard-hit communities and supporting food banks;
*Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice;
*Providing vital 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 Air National Guard delivered 40,000 yards of fabric from North Carolina to Arizona to be made into medical gowns. The wing volunteered for the airlift mission to speed the transportation of medical supplies and PPE needed for COVID response in Arizona.
The Arkansas National Guard has more than 75 soldiers and airmen on state active duty supporting state and federal partners in the fight against COVID-19.
*Manning call centers at the Arkansas Department of Health where both general and physicians calls are averaging 540 calls per day.
*Staffing the mobile triage center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with medics who are screening and testing more than 100 patients daily.
*Assisting the Arkansas DOH and the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management with logistics, medical, and communications analysis and planning, as well as liaison missions.
• Supporting logistics operations, handling and distribution of PPE and medical supplies. The team unloaded six tractor trailers, and processed 10,400 boxes of supplies April 12, in addition to the more than 36 pallets of supplies processed to date.
The California National Guard is loading and delivering pallets of ventilators to states heavily impacted by COVID-19. The state loaned 500 ventilators for treatment of COVID-19 patients in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Nevada.
Colorado National Guard members are assisting the city and county of Denver in sheltering people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Connecticut National Guard assisted the Connecticut Department of Public Health in distributing masks, gloves, and face shields to local residential care homes, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia National Guard completed a convoy picking up medical ventilators with light medium tactical vehicles. The ventilators were picked up in Delaware and delivered to the D.C. Department of Health warehouse as part of Task Force Able’s COVID-19 response.
More than 2,260 Florida National Guardsmen are currently mobilized in support of the state’s COVID-19 response. Ten Mobile Testing teams continue sampling missions statewide, and have conducted more than 820 tests to date, as the number of facilities requesting remote testing continues to increase daily.
The FLNG continues CBTS support at eight sites with two more opening in Broward County today. These sites have assisted in the testing more than 41,290 Floridians.
TF AID continues to support the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alternate care facility at the Miami Beach Convention Center with medical professionals and planning expertise.
Additional FLNG mission sets include airport screening at seven airports, logistics and commodities support, mission command, liaison activities and planning. These include 500 soldiers at four locations (Flagler, Lakeland, Miramar and Miami) to provide support, as needed, for a variety of missions to include food distribution, traffic control, security, etc.
The Georgia National Guard is reducing infection risks to 199 nursing homes statewide by conducting infection control measures.
Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers screen arrivals at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, in Honolulu in support for the COVID-19 pandemic response.
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 supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA in the temporary conversion of part of the McCormick Place Convention Center into an alternate care facility for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who do not require intensive care in the Chicago area.
There are more than 200 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen on duty directly supporting the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.
Guardsmen are providing facilities and personnel to support six Regional Medical Coordination Centers across the state as part of an Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Health Care Coalition initiative to pool resources and aid in the sharing of critical information across multiple agencies to combat the spread of COVID-19.
These coordination centers are located at Iowa National Guard armories in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Camp Dodge, Mason City, Council Bluffs and Sioux City.
Additionally, the Guard has established an operations center at its Joint Forces Headquarters in Johnston, along with task force headquarters at Camp Dodge, Iowa City and Sioux City to provide planning, coordination, communication, command and control of military forces activated in support of local, state and federal partners supporting regional response efforts across Iowa.
Every day, Iowa National Guard transportation units are on the road delivering medical PPE to county emergency management facilities across the state. With the assistance of the Iowa Departments of Transportation and Public Safety, all 99 counties have received shipments of PPE since these vital missions began March 24.
Additionally, the Iowa National Guard is providing medical screening tents to hospitals and clinics in Polk, Pottawattamie, Mahaska and Clarke counties
The Kentucky National Guard is supporting set up of an alternate care site in the Louisville Expo Center.
More than 1,340 Air and Army Guardsmen from Louisiana support civil authorities by providing medical, engineering assessment, commodities distribution support, shelter assistance, traffic control points and drive-through testing site support.
The Maine National Guard is providing equipment support to Veterans Affairs’ facilities.
Currently, more than 1,500 members of the Maryland National Guard continue supporting the states effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, with nearly 700 additional soldiers and airmen in an enhanced readiness status, capable of coming on-duty within a matter of hours, if needed.
Health and medical specialists from the MDNG’s medical detachment, 224th and 104th Area Support Medical companies have visited nearly a dozen nursing facilitates. Nearly 40 Guardsmen are supporting the Maryland Department of Health in the state’s COVID-19 mitigation and suppression efforts with multi-discipline assessment teams to help safeguard the citizens at nursing homes and other facilities across the state.
Guardsmen are supporting food distribution missions throughout Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and on the Eastern Shore.
Cyber specialists from the Maryland National Guard, Defense Force, and Department of Information Technology are assisting in the protection of virtual communities providing critical information related to COVID-19. The joint task force is evaluating Maryland government websites to ensure they are functioning properly and assure the accuracy of information.
The Maryland National Guard is continuing to support Marylanders in need of screening at FedEx Field, Pimlico Race Course, vehicle emissions centers, and the state house.
Maryland Air National Guard continues to process and distribute countless pieces of medical equipment and personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile. To date, these airmen have processed more than one million essential pieces of medical supply and PPE.
The Massachusetts National Guard is delivering PPE to first responders and hospitals throughout the state and providing staff augmentation and meal delivery to the Holyoke Soldiers Home.
Currently, more than 675 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are actively supporting the state's COVID-19 response, with an additional 6,600 service members 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 support.
Joint Task Force – Michigan includes more than 120 Guardsmen 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.
A multi-disciplined medical team from the Missouri National Guard is providing patient care at 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.
The Nebraska National Guard is supporting the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services with alternate housing for medical professionals. DHHS has three facilities in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney where medical workers can stay so that they don’t have to go home and risk infecting their families with the virus.
Additionally, 33 service members are logging people in and ou
About 700 additional Nevada National Guard soldiers and airmen will enter the fight against COVID-19 this week, bringing the total number of Nevada National Guardsmen, on military orders to support the state’s COVID-19 response, to about 800, the largest state activation in history.
About 100 Guardsmen have been conducting donation management and supply distribution operations. However, as these additional soldiers and airmen mobilize, the missions will include providing medical support, food bank and warehouse logistics, transportation of supplies, and establishment of alternate care facilities.
The majority of Nevada Guardsmen will operate in Las Vegas, where most of the Silver State’s confirmed cases and COVID-19-related deaths have occurred.
Guard medical professionals, already working the COVID-19 response in their civilian professions, will not be asked to report and will remain working their critically important fulltime jobs.
The New Hampshire National Guard is supporting 14 alternate care sites with approximately 1,700 beds.
Men and women of the New Jersey National Guard are helping set up an alternate care site in the Atlantic City Convention Center. The facility will provide 250 beds for non-COVID-19 patients.
The New York National Guard has 3,570 personnel on mission across the state with six joint task forces to manage logistics, warehouse operations, medical staff at the Javits Center and New York City hospitals, and testing sites. To date, more than 720 patients have received care at the Javits New York Medical Station.
*New York Air National Guard pararescue airmen, from New York’s 106th Rescue Wing, who are trained as emergency medical technicians are also assisting in city hospitals.
*The NYNG is supporting the alternate care facility at the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island.
*NYNG supports 10 drive-thru testing sites, supporting more than 5,000 test appointments April 14. The sites have seen more than 100,000 people since mid-March, and are located at: SUNY Stony Brook; Jones Beach State Park; Staten Island; Glen Island State Park in Westchester County; Anthony Wayne Service area in Rockland County; Lehman College and the Bay Plaza Mall in the Bronx; Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, Flatbush in Brooklyn; and the SUNY Albany campus in Albany. Soldiers and airmen are collecting samples and providing general-purpose support at the testing locations.
*National Guard personnel continue food packaging and distribution in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan in New York City, providing 93,504 meals April 14. To date, soldiers have distributed 906,534 meals.
*Similar missions continuing in Westchester County provided 51,941 meal packages and Albany County where 931 meals have been delivered to quarantined residents.
*New York soldiers and airmen are also conducting logistics missions, including warehousing and commodity distribution of medical supplies at six sites in the Hudson Valley, the Albany area, and Mohawk Valley.
*National Guard logisticians delivered 10 pallets of medical gowns April 13 to hospitals in Syracuse and Rochester and distributed 16 pallets of other medical supplies to Broome County and Orange County.
*Hand sanitizer delivery resumes for local government offices in Pomona. The National Guard delivered more than 33,148 gallons of hand sanitizer 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 recovery and transport of human remains when required. The support mission also includes assistance to the Westchester County Medical Examiner.
*New York National Guard members continue to provide support to the New York State Coronavirus Hotline by working call centers in Rotterdam and Brooklyn to offer updated information to the public. Soldiers speak with an average of 3,300 callers each day at each site, and have provided response and support to more than 170,611 callers since the mission began.
*Soldiers continue packaging COVID-19 test kits for the New York State Department of Health at the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany. They assembled more than 9,100 kits April 13 for distribution across the state, providing more than 118,700 since starting the mission.
Currently, more than 240 North Carolina National Guard personnel are supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. The NCNG remains ready to bring on hundreds of additional Guardsmen to battle COVID-19.
*North Carolina National Guard engineers along with partner agencies and facility representatives have assessed more 20 locations for potential sites for alternate care facilities.
*NCNG members are supporting logistic and commodities distribution of PPE to medical facilities and other vulnerable facilities.
*NC Guard liaison officers have deployed to four county emergency operations centers to assist in tracking commodities and synchronizing operations.
More than 125 North Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. This includes assisting the North Dakota departments of Health and Emergency Services in any requested capacity.
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.
Nearly 850 Pennsylvania National Guard members are involved in supporting the state’s response to COVID-19. Some are actively conducting missions while others are preparing in anticipation of additional tasks with our state and federal agency partners.
The PNG continues: supporting the community testing site in Montgomery County and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; assembling 3,000 boxed meals a day which are distributed to local families in need; and planning with our state partner agencies. To date, the PNG has assisted in: returning quarantined cruise ship passengers to their Pennsylvania homes; providing logistical support to the Department of Health; supporting the setup of a FEMA Medical Station in Glen Mills, Delaware County; and transporting cots from Norristown State Hospital to the FEMA Field Hospital.
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 South Carolina National Guard is building testing sites and erecting tents for patient triage.
The Tennessee National Guard is assisting at 37 testing sites and supporting nursing homes with patient movement as needed.
To date, the Texas National Guard has helped manufacture more than two million PPE items throughout the state. Additionally, the TXNG has helped test 5,675 people at medical testing sites, and has distributed more than 2,600 commodities of medical supplies, food, and cleaning products.
More than 210 Vermont National Guard soldiers, airmen on state active duty supporting the state and the Vermont National Guard’s response to COVID-19.
Members of the VTNG have partnered with state foremen to build a 400-bed alternate care facility at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. The VTNG will also fully staff the facility with medical personnel.
Nearly 290 members of the Virginia National Guard continue to support Virginia’s COVID-19 response efforts, including planning and logistics in Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Roanoke; as well as supporting a Virginia Department of Emergency Management supply warehouse in Richmond.
Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been providing logistical support to the Montgomery County Public Health Task Force’s Mobile COVID-19 testing site in Blacksburg.
The Virginia National Guard is postured to bring additional personnel on duty based on the needs of the Commonwealth. This includes soldiers airmen to assist with operations, logistics and medical planning. Additionally, soldiers are assisting with logistics support at warehouse operations and mobile testing sites at several locations in the state.
All personnel conducting support operations for COVID-19 response are following the prescribed health protection guidelines of social distancing, cloth face coverings and hand washing.
The Washington National Guard has distributed 1.6 million pounds of food to those in need.
The West Virginia National Guard provided training on proper PPE, sanitizing and decontamination methods and best practices for the prevention of COVID-19 spread to staff at the Barboursville Veterans home. Guardsmen will make additional visits to the facility to train all support staff and facilitate implementation of plans and procedures for how to deal with COVID-19 positive cases, if any were to arrive.
Currently, 600 members of the WVNG are on duty in support of the state’s COVID-19 response, and have conducted 370 missions to date.
Members of the WVNG, Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, Yeager Airport, Kanawha County Emergency Management, Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office and JanCare Ambulance tested decontamination and sanitization methods for first responder vehicles at Executive Air in Charleston. The goal is to establish a decontamination and sanitization lane for ambulances, police cars, fire and other emergency services vehicles that have transported known or potential COVID-19 patients, ultimately providing protection for first responders and their families.
The WVNG has added nearly 20 more personnel to assist in providing training, rapid COVID-19 testing response and COVID-19 lane support for drive-through testing in Martinsburg. Additionally, the Guard will provide the first of more than 50 mobile training team engagements in some of West Virginia’s most active areas, including Monongalia County and surrounding locations. Training of more than 20 retail establishments occurred April 14, as Guardsmen provided instruction on proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear. To date, this team has taught more than 1,400 personnel from 427 stores, while also assisting with COVID-19 drive- through testing lanes at seven locations across the Mountain State.
Specific facility best practices and PPE training was also conducted at Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood, and members provided training to five of the seven largest hospitals in the state.
WVNG’s mission of supporting the most vulnerable populations in the state continues to make an impact as Guardsmen delivered more than 5,000 meals through our refrigerated trucks to Boone, Tyler, Webster and Wirt Counties April 14. In addition, service members packed 184 one-day family boxes at the Mountaineer Food Bank.
Task Force Sustainment, the team dedicated to moving critical PPE supplies and running supply chain logistics for COVID-19 response, is continuing to refine PPE distribution processes with WVNG agency partners at the Department of Health and Human Resources and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. April 13, TF-Sustainment received 96,000 surgical masks, 25,200 face shields, and 200 gallons of hand sanitizer.
WVNG data analysts working with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support 194 contact tracing engagements to two expedited specimen transfers to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
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 is in the National Guard responding to COVID-19, and would like to talk about your experience, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, email@example.com.
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.