The number of Air and Army National Guard troops called up for coronavirus pandemic duty as of Monday exceeded 46,500, up 1,500 since Friday. Troops are performing such tasks as augmenting medical staff, helping distribute supplies, equipment and food, and staffing testing sites, among other duties.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper says now is not the time to reduce defense investment, in spite of the debt the US is incurring due to the coronavirus pandemic. "So, there is a concern there that may lead to smaller defense budgets in the future at the critical time we need to continue making this adjustment, where we look at China, then Russia, as our long-term strategic competitors," he said.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says she plans to introduce a bill that would give all service members deployed as part of the coronavirus outbreak response a monthly $150 tax-free stipend that would be retroactive to their deployment date. The funding would be a form of hazard pay that Ernst says is "a small step to recognize the hazardous work they're doing during this pandemic and provide them the pay they deserve."
Army Reserve troops with the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) have been helping civilian workers at the Medical Equipment Concentration Site, 88th Readiness Division in Ogden, Utah, inspect and service medical equipment housed at the site as demand grows during the coronavirus outbreak. "The role MECS 88 plays in the COVID-19 response is getting all the priority equipment ready to go so as soon as they need it, it can be delivered in a timely manner," said civilian project manager Kelly Chartier.
Approximately 130 Maryland National Guard troops are heading out for deployment to the Middle East. It is the first deployment for the troops with the 58th and 629th expeditionary military intelligence brigades.
Army Reserve Col. Alex Garza, a command surgeon with 352nd Civil Affairs Command based in Maryland, is leading the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak. "We quickly came to realize that we needed a unified approach if we were going to get through this pandemic successfully," says Garza.