The United States Army doesn’t just defend America from foreign invasion; it’s also joining the fight against the worst pandemic in recent history. In a Pentagon press briefing on March 26, 2020, Army Chief of Staff General James McConville announced that the Army was calling on “retired officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers who have the skills and expertise to assist with our COVID-19 response efforts.”
Gen. McConville said, “This is a tough fight, but together we’ll do our part to help the nation win.” The chief of staff noted that the call-out “is a voluntary opportunity for our medical soldiers for life to return to the fight if they so choose—especially if they are not currently assisting their local communities.”
McConville told the press that “so far, the initial response has been very, very positive.” Out of the 800,000 former personnel contacted by the Army, over 17,000 answered the call within just a few days, CBS reported.
The emergency message was issued by Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the Army’s deputy chief of staff responsible for manpower, who called on retired soldiers in no uncertain terms. “We need to hear from you STAT!” the general wrote. Seamands specifically targeted critical care officers and nurses, as well as respiratory specialists and anesthetists.
At a briefing, Lt. Gen R. Scott Dingle, Army surgeon general, added that the Army will “walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials [of returning personnel] are straight. Then once we do that, we’ll plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission.”
The Army has responded vigorously amidst the coronavirus crisis, deploying three field hospital units in New York and Seattle, both of which have been hard hit by the virus. National Guard troops have helped transform Manhattan’s huge Jacob Javits Center into a field hospital that will be able to treat nearly 3,000 overflow, non-CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus patients from other hospitals.
CenturyLink Field, the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks, will also be converted into a field hospital by the Army. According to the NFL, “Three hundred soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado, have deployed to Seattle to staff the hospital, which is expected to create at least 150 hospital beds for non-COVID-19 cases.”
In addition to creating these massive field hospitals in two of America’s most-affected cities, the U.S. Navy has sent its medical ships the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy to New York and Los Angeles, respectively. These floating hospitals will “serve as referral centers for non-COVID-19 patients during the global pandemic,” according to the Department of Defense.
The ship’s specifications allow them to accommodate up to 1,200 medical staff and 1,000 patient beds. The Comfort has served in previous times of national crisis, including in New York after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The ships will also accommodate non-CCP virus patients to reduce the strain on healthcare infrastructure.
As the military’s medical corps goes into emergency operations, the Army is also calling medical students to join the fight. The Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, has graduated 200 final-year doctors and advanced practice nurses ahead of schedule.
President of the university Richard Thomas underscored that these personnel have been preparing for just such a situation. “Our curriculum has a specific focus on threats like emerging infectious diseases and disasters that our military and Public Health Service forces are likely to encounter in the course of their careers,” he explained, per the Department of Defense.
Last but not least, the Army National Guard, which is often deployed during crises, such as natural disasters, has been called upon heavily during the present pandemic. In his Pentagon briefing, General McConville enumerated the myriad ways that “[o]ver 10,000 National Guard soldiers are supporting CCP virus response in communities across every state in the nation.”
This includes everything from “delivering food to communities, supporting local emergency management agencies, provide personal protective equipment to first responders and hospital personnel, providing support to testing facilities, providing transportation for healthcare workers,” the general said.