As states grapple with evolving needs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the role of the National Guard continues to increase.
By Wednesday morning, 10,700 members of the Air and Army National Guard are supporting the COVID-19 response at the direction of governors. Eight states have approved the use of Dual-Status Commanders, giving them the authority to command active and reserve component troops under control of a state’s governor, according to a press release by the National Guard Bureau. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the bureau, describes the scenario as a multi-faceted event hitting across various locations.
“With COVID-19, it’s like we have 54 different hurricanes hitting every state, every territory, and the District of Columbia — some are Category 5, some are Category 3, and some are Category 1,” he stated.
The current activities being performed by soldiers and airmen include, but are not limited to:
- Delivering food in hard-hit communities;
- Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice;
- Providing critical Personal Protective Equipment training and sample collection and delivery to first responders and hospital personnel;
- Supporting local emergency management agencies with response planning and execution;
- Providing support and symptoms screening to testing facilities;
- Serving as response liaisons and support to state Emergency Operations Centers;
- Providing transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers;
- Assisting with disinfecting/cleaning of common public spaces.
The response has also showcased the unique capabilities of the Guard, with governors leaning on members for various functions. Florida National Guard, as an example, has activated 1,493 who are augmenting airport screening procedures and supporting the state’s testing sites. To date, FLNG has assisted with over 4,300 individuals being tested, according to 1st Lt. Tahisha Coleman, public affairs officer.
North Carolina National Guard is utilizing 61 Air and Army Guardsmen who have positioned 17 vehicles to support warehouse and commodity management and distribution in the Raleigh-Durham area and Charlotte area. These experienced guardsmen and women have executed this exact mission (warehouse operations and commodities distribution) with emergency management during recent Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, according to Lt Col Matthew DeVivo, public affairs officer.
More than 2,000 personnel from New York National Guard are working direct with Governor Andrew Cuomo to setup FEMA Field Hospitals at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, New York. The site will take roughly seven to 10 days to construct up the four 250-bed field hospitals, according to a release by Col. Richard Goldenberg, public affairs officer.
Guardsmen are also supporting food packaging and cleansing operations in New Rochelle, New York.
The number of activations is expected to climb due to the Guard’s ability to provide a rapid, coordinated response.
“Americans should know the National Guard has their backs throughout this crisis. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together,” Lengyel said.