National Guard Ramping Up COVID-19 Response


Specialist (SPC) Reagan Long, left, a Horizontal Construction Engineer with the New York Army National Guard’s 827th Engineer Company, and Private First Class (PFC) Naomi Velez, a Horizontal Construction Engineer with the New York Army National Guard’s 152nd Engineer Support Company, register people at a COVID-19 mobile screening center in New Rochelle, NY, on March 14, 2020. (Photo by Sergeant Amouris Coss.)

ARLINGTON, Virginia – About 2,050 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in 27 States have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts, according to Air Force General (GEN) Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, who addressed reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, March 19.

At that time, GEN Lengyel said the number most likely would double by the weekend, and it is even possible that tens of thousands of Guard members could be activated as the situation unfolds, depending on the needs of communities.

By Sunday, March 22, an update was released stating all 50 States, three Territories, and the District of Columbia are engaged in combating COVID-19, and 7,300 Guard Soldiers are providing critical skills and support.

There are about 450,000 Guard troops overall, GEN Lengyel noted, who can provide logistical and other capabilities, including ground transportation, command and control, engineering services, kitchens, tents, and medical personnel.

Current National Guard COVID-19 response missions include, but are not limited to: delivering food in hard-hit communities; manning call centers to provide a knowledgeable and calming voice; providing critical personal protective equipment training and sample collection to first responders and hospital personnel; supporting local emergency management agencies with response planning and execution; providing support 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; and collecting and delivering samples.

Last week, GEN Lengyel provided a snapshot of what the Guard already has been doing:

  • The New York National Guard is helping local officials distribute food, much of it in the hard-hit area of New Rochelle.
  • A Tennessee Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft delivered 500,000 swabs to be added to COVID-19 test kits in Memphis last Wednesday.
  • More than 500 Soldiers are assisting with collecting samples from drive-through testing in Broward County, FL.
  • In Maryland, the National Guard is supporting medical assessments and testing site operations.
  • The Wisconsin National Guard is supporting transportation missions for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
  • In Louisiana, Guard liaison officers are assisting the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security in emergency preparedness.
  • Across the U.S., Civil Support Teams are supporting the local departments of health with drive-through testing stations.

“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. But a historic event demands a historic response ­– and that’s what you’re seeing from the National Guard,” says GEN Lengyel.


Air Force GEN Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, briefs Pentagon reporters on the National Guard’s response to COVID-19 on March 19, 2020. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Brandy Nicole Mejia.)

“We remain flexible and committed for whatever mission we may be called to do,” GEN Lengyel said. He noted that the governors of each State have the flexibility to use the Guard in ways they deem most fit and productive.

So far, six members of the Guard in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, he said. Force health protection measures are in place to prevent more from contracting the virus.

If you’re interested in helping your community, find out ways you can serve part-time in the Army National Guard. Your service is rewarded in education benefits and training in careers ranging from police and protection to intelligence to medical services. Visit our job board for details and contact a recruiter for more information.

From an original article by David Vergun, DoD News, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil on March 19, 2020, with updates added.

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