Washington, D.C. – They were told their country needs them again. And they responded overwhelmingly.
President Trump issued an executive order allowing Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to order units and individual members to duty, including “certain Individual Ready Reserve” members, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
The Individual Ready Reserve comprises former active-duty and reserve service members, who are commonly considered out of the military and rarely recalled.
Hoffman said decisions about which people may be activated are still being reviewed.
“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,” Hoffman’s statement said.
A military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, would not rule out that involuntary recalls are possible for some veterans in the Individual Ready Reserve.
“That’s to be determined based on requirements,” the official said.
In response to the President’s order, the U.S. Army issued a request for volunteers with prior service. So far, more than 17,000 people have responded to the Army’s call for medical personnel.
Human resources professionals are now vetting the responding volunteers to help with the pandemic.
The Army sent an email on March 25th to approximately 800,000 former soldiers. The intent was to gauge interest in coming back to assist with the pandemic response.
The call for volunteers listed a series of health care careers the service is interested in, including critical care officers, various nursing specialties and former medics.
An Army spokesperson said the email was part of their department’s effort to gauge “availability and capabilities” of retired career medical personnel to assist with the pandemic if needed.
The Army’s surgeon general said that the returning volunteers would be used to fill the roles of current medical personnel normally assigned to installation treatment facilities who may be called upon to deploy elsewhere in the United States, maintaining medically operations.
The Army has received responses from retired officers, non-commissioned officers and former enlisted soldiers who might be interested in assisting with the pandemic response effort, assuming their skills and expertise fit the requirements.
“These extraordinary challenges require equally extraordinary solutions and that’s why we’re turning to you — trusted professionals capable of operating under constantly changing conditions,” the email reads.
“When the Nation called — you answered, and now, that call may come again.”
Respondents were not only retired soldiers from prior medical specialties in the Army, however.
They included retirees from a wide range of backgrounds, to include retired personnel from other service branches. The responses also come at a time when unemployment is rising across the country due to the drop in economic activity under the pandemic.
Army Human Resources Command sent the numbers to the office of the Army’s deputy chief of staff for manpower. Personnel at the command will continue vetting and reaching out to respondents over the next week. The large number of responses will take some time to assess, service officials said.
Some respondents, for instance, were former soldiers who did not serve in a medical specialty, but did earn nursing licenses or other medical certifications after they left the Army. Vetting those people’s qualifications will be an ongoing process.
The volunteers could fill in for current Army medical personnel who might be sent to help civilian leaders domestically, the Army’s top medical officer explained during a briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday.
“We’re getting many volunteers,” said Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle.
“We’ll then walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials 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.
Volunteers would be leveraged alongside Army reserve soldiers to fill those holes from the medical treatment facilities, so we can maintain the readiness of our soldiers, as well as the beneficiary population,”
Army officials have said they want to ensure make sure they’re not pulling people away from state authorities who need them. They asked respondents to tell the Army if they’re currently working for a civilian hospital.
“This information request will in no way interfere with any care they may be providing to their communities, is for future planning purposes only and is completely voluntary,” the Army spokesperson said in a statement.
“We need to hear from you STAT! If you are working in a civilian hospital or medical facility, please let us know. We do not want to detract from the current care and treatment you are providing to the Nation.”
So far the Army had deployed three field hospitals to two of the hardest hit cities by the pandemic thus far, New York City and Seattle, Washington.
Learn more at https://t.co/u3fFSCJRW4
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) March 31, 2020
According to the Army Times, these deployed units are the 531st Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky; the 627th Hospital from Fort Carson, Colorado; and the 9th Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas, all of which are active duty units.
Moving on orders of @SecArmy, we've issued deployment orders to the 531st Hospital from Fort Campbell, KY, the 627th Hospital from Fort Carson, CO, & the 9th Hospital from Fort Hood, TX, to deploy to NY & WA to help contain #COVID19 & protect the nation.https://t.co/aMaUNK3SnK
— GEN James C. McConville (@ArmyChiefStaff) March 25, 2020
The call for volunteers listed a series of heath care careers the service is interested in, including critical care officers, various nursing specialties and former medics.
Those Military Occupational Specialties include, but are not limited to: 60F, critical care officer; 60N, anesthesiologist; 66F, nurse anesthetist; 66S, critical care nurse; 66P, nurse practitioner; 66T, emergency room nurse; 68V, respiratory specialist; and 68W, medic.
The Army included an email signature for Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army deputy chief of staff for manpower.
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