Delaware guardsmen at the ready

There are no plans for the National Guard to enforce quarantine in the U.S., but they are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in other ways.

Instead of weapons, they’re armed with food, medical supplies and, in Delaware’s case, desks and computers.

 “The utilization of the National Guard in some sort of a military sense, to quarantine America or to participate in law enforcement activities for shelter-in-place, we’re not doing that. There has been no discussion of using the National Guard in that way,” said National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel on Wednesday, March 25.

There are now more than 9,000 guardsmen serving on coronavirus-related missions, according to the National Guard Association. Thousands more are expected to be activated in the coming days and weeks.

In the First State

Ten Delaware National Guard members have been activated in administrative roles.

Eight of them are military liaison officers with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. Two are in Arlington, Virginia, working at the National Guard Bureau’s Joint Operations Center.

“We don’t want to speculate on future missions, but the Delaware Guard stands ready to respond within hours of the governor’s request, in any capacity they need us,” said Public Affairs Director Capt. Bernie Kale.

There are nearly 3,000 citizen airmen and soldiers in the Delaware National Guard. Their purpose is to provide protection of life and property and to preserve peace, order and public safety through emergency relief support.

“From hurricanes to winter storms, and even COVID-19, the Delaware National Guard is ready for any activation. We train throughout the year to be ready to respond to anything at a moment’s notice,” said Kale. “We have our military liaisons side-by-side with our state emergency response coordinators, providing input on if and when the National Guard should be used. We may have a few different roles in the state response, but rest assured we are ready and willing to step up and serve our communities.”

Activation

The National Guard is the only United States military force that operates on both state and federal levels, giving it a unique authority. The National Guard can be activated by state or federal government, in three different ways – state active duty, Title 32 duty and Title 10 duty. Each varies in terms of command, funding and guardsmen benefits.

The liaisons with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency are on state active duty, which is activated by the governor and paid for with state funds.

Title 32 allows the president or the Secretary of Defense to place guardsmen in full-time duty status, funded by federal dollars but under the command and control of state governors. It is usually in response to national disasters and homeland defense needs, such as Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and now, the pandemic.

On Sunday, March 22, President Donald Trump approved Title 32 status for guardsmen in California, New York and Washington, three of the states hardest hit by the virus.

In California, guardsmen are assisting food banks, at medical warehouses, and in setting up medical equipment. In New York, they’re disinfecting schools and distributing supplies. The Washington state National Guard has actually yet to receive a COVID-19 related mission.

Title 10 active duty is under the control of the president and is typically used to train or to deploy National Guardsmen overseas. The two Delaware guardsmen in Arlington, Virginia, are on Title 10 duty.