Members of the National Guard administer tests for COVID-19.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma
Members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 62nd Civil Support Team gather information from those in line at a COVID-19 mobile testing site in Westwego, Louisiana, March 21, 2020.
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More than 9,000 National Guard activated as of Tuesday, part of a historic response to combat the spread of COVID-19. The Guard sent most units to assist medical professionals and hospitals across the country. With many guard members providing support where they live, units perform a wide range of tasks, from helping with administrative tasks such as answering phones, all the way to administering roadside tests for COVID-19.

Historic National Guard Response to Fight COVID-19

“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,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, in a press release.

The historic response activates National Guard units in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. But while this individual threat is new, the mission is one the National Guard trains for regularly.

“A lot of citizens don’t know the National Guard does stuff like this, so that is kind of an eye-opener too,” Army Capt. Heather Schaller, a nurse with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, said in a release.

Guard Units Deploy Across U.S.

The massive response currently takes many forms. In Florida, National Guard Soldiers and Airmen conduct COVID-19 testing at Hard Rock Stadium, in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In Wisconsin, National Guard medics responded to a senior living facility, after that facility reported its first death due to COVID-19.

“It’s rewarding, and it’s the reason why I put on the uniform, and why I joined the Guard,” Schaller said. “I didn’t join to put on the uniform and go to drill every weekend. Now it’s something where I can actually do something for the community.”

“One of the most important National Guard missions is to support our own communities,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard, in a release. “Assisting and serving our fellow neighbors is a very personal effort as this is where we live. We are all in this together.”

With nearly 15,000 confirmed cases at press time, New York City has become, once again, ground zero. More than 1,600 service members now operate in New York. During a recent mission, the Guard setup tents at hospitals across the state, expanding space dedicated for COVID-19 treatment. Many of these same soldiers already responded to New Rochelle, distributing food and hand sanitizer, where an early wave of infections rocked the state.

“We’re all in this together,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, 369th Sustainment Brigade Headquarters, in a release. “So it’s good to be working on different missions.”

Hometown Mission

This isn’t any kind of martial law. In stark contrast to the Army or Marines, National Guard units continue to take on missions in their own communities. Arguably more than ever before, the Guard will be present at the local and state level, making a difference, across the U.S.

“One of the most important National Guard missions is to support our own communities,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard. “Assisting and serving our fellow neighbors is a very personal effort as this is where we live. We are all in this together.”

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