Soldiers from the Michigan National Guard assist the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo by: Army Staff Sgt. James R Bennett)
About 2,050 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said today that by this weekend that number most likely would double, and it is even possible that tens of thousands of guardsmen could be activated as the situation unfolds, depending on the needs of communities.
There are about 450,000 Guard troops in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories, he noted, with logistical and other capabilities that include airlift, ground transportation, command and control, engineering, kitchens, tents and medical personnel.
Lengyel provided a snapshot of what the Guard is already 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 yesterday.
- More than 500 soldiers are assisting with collecting samples from drive-through testing in Broward County, Florida.
- 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, the 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.
“We remain flexible and committed for whatever mission we may be called to do,” Lengyel said. He noted that the governors of each state have the flexibility to use the Guard in ways they seem most fit and productive.
So far, six Guardsmen in the U.S. currently have tested positive for COVID-19, he said. Force health protection measures are in place in an effort to prevent more.