The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 19,700 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 1,200 Guard troops since Thursday.
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. Another 29 requests moving through the approval process. and 22 states and two territories have approved use of Dual-Status Commanders.
In addition to 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.
And, once again, Guard leadership has been forced to dispel rumors that it will enforce martial law.
“I’m hearing unfounded rumors about National Guard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion. We’re going to show up at the point of the problem, and we’re going to show up as professional soldiers and airmen. That’s what we bring to every task.”
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:
Arizona Guard members are unloading trucks at grocery stores, keeping products available to people in the communities.
The Arkansas National Guard has 98 soldiers and airmen on state active duty performing a variety of missions in support of the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Arkansas Guardsmen are supporting 12 active missions as part of the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. They include the following:
*Medics, a physician, and physician’s assistants are manning call centers for both general populace medical concerns about COVID-19, as well as a physician’s lines. These call centers are averaging more than 650 calls per day.
*Medics from both Arkansas Army and Air National Guard units are conducting patient screening at mobile triage centers and the UAMS drive-through center. Both screening and sample collections are being performed by soldiers and airmen, that helps free-up UAMS medical professionals to assist patients in other areas in the hospital.
*More than 25 specialized airmen and soldiers are assisting the Arkansas Department of Health and working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal partners to assess and plan for several alternate care facilities throughout the state.
*Soldiers and airmen with engineering degrees, specialized experience with communications and network systems, logistics expertise, transportation planners, and staff planners are working side-by-side with our state and federal partners in the execution of the COVID-19 response.
The California National Guard is leveraging some of its highly-trained leaders to manage food banks.
Currently 1,621 Florida National Guardsmen are activated in support of the State’s COVID-19 response performing operational support of community-based testing sites; augmenting airport screening measures; as well as statewide logistics support, coordination, planning and operational mission sets.
The FLNG has activated medical professionals, Army Combat Medic specialists and Air Force Medical technicians in support of the Florida Department of Health’s community-based testing sites. These FLNG continues to support CBTS operations at Broward County, Miami/Hard Rock Stadium, Orange County, Miami-Dade/Marlins Park and Palm Beach County. Beginning April 7 the Guard will be supporting a second CBTS in Palm Beach. To date, the FLNG has assisted in the testing of more than 19,700 individuals for the COVID-19 virus.
Additionally, the FLNG has activated Guardsmen to augment the State Logistics Readiness Center, the State’s Logistics Branch, as well as to facilitate statewide logistics needs of the Guard formations on mission. The FLNG support to the SLRC remains operational 24 hours daily. Logistics professionals continue to support the state’s Emergency Operations centers as well as sustaining mobilized FLNG personnel.
Florida Guardsmen are augmenting the State Emergency Operations Center and local emergency management offices across the state.
In efforts to ensure the health and safety of its personnel, Florida Guard members performing duties at the SLRC are now receiving screenings
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 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 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.
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, 443 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are actively supporting the state's COVID-19 response and an additional 6,600 Guardsmen are ready to assist. Across eight 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. Additionally, Joint Task Force – Michigan includes more than 100 MING 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.
Presently, 73 Montana Army and Air National Guard men and women have been activated for state active duty in response to COVID-19. These soldiers and airmen are being employed in 11 cities and 17 locations within those cities around the state.
Guardsmen will be tasked to screen individuals arriving in Montana from other states and countries through airports and train stations. They will be located at airports in: Bozeman, Billings, Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls and Butte. Screening will include all arriving passengers at the airport terminals and most privately-owned, fixed base operations located at these major airports. Guardsmen will also screen individuals entering Montana by train at stations in: Whitefish, Havre, Shelby and Wolf Point.
Additionally, each location will have a Montana National Guard liaison officer to work with local disaster and emergency services representatives, public health officials, airport management and Transportation Safety Administration officials. These liaisons will work with each team to monitor inbound flight and train arrivals
The New York National Guard has more than 2,850 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 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.
New York Guardsmen continue to manage the site as the unified command post for the multiagency response at the Javits Center. The build out of Javits to add 1,000 additional beds is expected to be completed this week.
The Guard continues support at seven drive-thru testing sites. Nearly 27,000 people have received testing at these sites since they first began.
National Guard personnel are continuing food packaging and distribution today in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan in New York City. Similar missions continue in Westchester County in New Rochelle and Albany County for the City of Albany. National Guard members have helped in the distribution of some 148,626 meals.
New York soldiers and airmen are also conducting 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.
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.
Soldiers are also on call to assist Department of Health officials at the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany for packaging COVID 19 test kits. They provided assembly of 22,250 kits so far.
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 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.
West Virginia currently has more than 420 soldiers and airmen on duty. In just one day the National Guard members:
*Conducted 20 training missions for retailers, food establishments and convenience stores in the proper wear of PPE.
*Logistics teams delivered critical PPE to 55 counties throughout the state.
*Delivered 5,500 meals using refrigerated trucks; packed an additional 2,000 meals for distribution.
*Assisted at two drive-through testing sites.
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, email@example.com, 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.