President Trump signed an Executive Order on Friday that gives the Pentagon authorization to call up certain members of the Reserves and Ready Reserves for the fight against COVID-19. The Pentagon is reviewing which personnel will be called.
“Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities…As this is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed. We will provide updates as they become available.” Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman
As of Friday, the Army said it had emailed thousands of troops to gauge their interest in joining the fight. They were specifically interested in those who had served as “critical care officer, anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist, critical care nurse, nurse practitioner, emergency-room nurse, respiratory specialist and medic.” (Stripes)
Some military veterans have already volunteered to return amid the coronavirus reponse, even without the Pentagon authorization.
According to Military Times,
The executive order authorizes Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to coordinate with state governors to ensure the reserve activations do not interfere with any of those missions.
The military reserve components include several different categories of veterans and part-time service members. The selected reserve, some of whom have already been activated, regularly train for a variety of military and community response missions.
The Individual Ready Reserve is made up mostly of individuals who have already served in an active-duty component and still have some military service obligation remaining. Under federal law, they can be involuntarily recalled during a national emergency.
The call-up states that service members can be retained for up to 24 months in total.
The US military, as of Thursday, had 309 service members, 134 civilians, 108 dependents and 62 contractors that tested positive for the virus, according to the Military Times in a separate article. The entire Department of Defense went to Health Protection Condition C this week, which restricts who can enter a military installation.
The Navy is fighting COVID-19 aboard their ships. The USS Theodore Roosevelt was ordered to port in Guam so that crew members could be tested for the virus after 35 more sailors tested positive. (Navy Times)
The USNS Mercy was deployed to Los Angeles, and the USNS Comfort to New York City. The Navy ships will offer their medical services for those not affected by COVID-19 in order to free up much needed beds in hospitals. Army hospital units were dispatched to other hot spots, including Seattle.
Calling up former service members may be an important step in the fight against the virus. This is a different kind of war, but still one that can kill.
Featured photo: Louisiana National Guardsmen with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team don protective suits to administer nasal swabs to first responders and medical personnel that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms at a mobile testing site at the Alario Center in Westwego, Louisiana, on March 21, 2020. (Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma/Army National Guard)