Nearly 37,000 National Guardsmen are supporting COVID-19 response missions, with a growing number doing so under Title 32 orders.
An estimated two-thirds of Guardsmen are currently serving under such orders while responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Title 32 has been approved for 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia as of Monday.
Title 32 allows for the use of federal funds for state missions, but keeps governors in control of the force, ensuring greater flexibility.
Currently, Guardsmen are supporting testing sites, constructing and staffing alternate care facilities, assisting state agencies in testing analysis, providing medical care, supporting communications and delivering needed supplies and equipment.
The Guard is providing the vast majority of military troops to COVID-19 response missions. The domestic response mission is currently larger than the Guard’s overseas missions, which total approximately 30,000 service members deployed to combatant commands around the world.
“When bad things happen in their neighborhoods, Guardsmen go running to bring assistance and comfort to America. It’s very satisfying to be part of that community,” said Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “We’re very lucky as a nation to have men and women who are willing to serve, not just in the National Guard, but in all of the first responder networks.”
NGAUS, which pushed for the use of Title 32, believes such orders are the best way to deploy Guardsmen amid the pandemic. But the orders aren’t perfect.
The association is now pressing defense leaders to provide Guardsmen with transitional TRICARE medical coverage once they begin demobilizing from the front lines of the COVID-19 effort.
Similar coverage is provided to Guardsmen who return from overseas missions to help cope with possible post-deployment health issues.
According to reports, at least 672 Guardsmen have contracted COVID-19, although it’s unclear how many did so during their National Guard duties. The numbers have steadily grown in recent days, including a 10% jump over the weekend.
Overall, the Defense Department has reported nearly 3,500 cases of COVID-19 in the force, adding more than 100 cases each day on average.