Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

National Guard and Reservists doing their part to fight COVID-19

Image of Military personnel performing nasal swabs of people in a row of cars. Air Force Staff Sgt. Misty Poitra, in blue, and Air Force Senior Airman Chris Cornette, both of the 119th Medical Group, collect throat swabs during COVID-19 rapid drive-through testing in Fargo, North Dakota. In the background, North Dakota Army National Guard soldiers gather test subject data. (Photo by Chief Master Sgt. David H. Lipp, Air National Guard.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Army Col. Brian Keller, a nurse with the North Dakota Army National Guard, was quietly at work, doing what he always did.

“I’m a full-time National Guardsman, so I was working on readiness, making sure soldiers are deployable,” he said. “That’s my full-time job.”

But early in 2020, his other titles came much more into play: Deputy state surgeon, and deputy commander of the State Medical Detachment for North Dakota.

“From Day One when we stepped up to do the testing for the community, we did have [help from] some public health people from [the Southwestern District Health Unit Medical Center in Dickinson, North Dakota], but we didn’t know what we didn’t know,” Keller recalled. “We just knew we had to jump into this battle and start testing and see what we could find. That’s if we could find any of the virus, and that’s why we picked that small town.”

That would be the town of Amidon, a tiny blip on the southwestern part of North Dakota. In March, when Keller and his team started there, they were filling out three pieces of paper per person tested – outside, in winter, on the prairie.

“It took a long time,” Keller said, with distinctive Midwestern understatement.

These days, people coming for testing simply hand over their driver’s license so that an electronic tablet can do that work for them, producing a bar-coded label that goes right on a patient sample. Another system involves a pre-registration site where people drive up and simply give their names and birth dates.

“We can do 1,000 tests in just a couple hours,” Keller said.

Just months ago, it took six to seven hours for 300 tests, tops. It was an example of ingenuity taking place all over the country, with members of the Military Health System partnering with civilian hospitals and clinics.

Around the nation, by mid-March there were 18 labs performing about 10,000 tests per week for DOD beneficiaries receiving care at military medical treatment facilities, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said in remarks at the annual AMSUS meeting, The Society of Federal Health Professionals.

“The department is now completing 70,000 tests per week, operates 158 operational laboratories and has completed over 1.7 million COVID tests on DOD beneficiaries,” Norquist said. “This is thanks in part to our National Guard members who provided testing support in multiple states.”

He added that more than 60,000 service members have been involved in the fight against the virus in all states and territories.

Other examples of large efforts that involved unusual mission shifts in 2020 include the deployment of U.S. Navy hospital ships (the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy) that provided support to Americans in New York City and Los Angeles, respectively, who were affected by the pandemic. Navy medical professionals on both ships assisted local health care providers by offering care to patients who did not have the virus — freeing local hospitals and clinics to treat COVID-19 patients. The operation was led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with U.S. Northern Command and Military Sealift Command.

In Mississippi, the Air Force had to develop a new process to ensure the prevention of COVID among service members set to be deployed into the U.S. Central, Africa and European commands’ areas of responsibility. The Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center was tasked with assisting in restriction of movement operations so that service members could comply with specified Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance before departure. Personnel from multiple units in multiple states contributed to the effort, including Reservists and those coming from many Mississippi Air National Guard units, according to Col. Berry McCormick, the Gulfport training center commander.

Another individual on the battle lines has been Army Reserve Sgt. Major Glenn DelRosario, a registered critical care respiratory therapist. In the spring, he finished up a three-year stint with the Army Reserve Medical Command but was mobilized again in July to fight COVID and found himself in Harlingen, Texas, as part of an 86-person Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF).

There is a critical shortage of respiratory therapists throughout the Army, he said, so even though he worked as the chief medical NCO to the commander, he worked in a clinical role, too. The UAMTF worked with the staffs of two hospitals.

“We were working hand in hand with FEMA nurses, hospital staff, and an active-duty Navy unit that got called in as well,” said DelRosario, who added that they needed every doctor, nurse and therapist, military and civilian.

“Serving as a respiratory therapist in the Army…you knew what to expect anywhere you went,” said DelRosario, a veteran of Iraq. “Going to the civilian sector, the integration was different because they had multiple types of equipment and different protocols. Scopes of practices are different.

“You’re not carrying your M-16 and your ammo around and your body armor,” he added. “And you don’t have the extra threat level of enemy forces around you.”

“One thing about the Army Reserve is they are a special group of people,” DelRosario said. “They really are citizen soldiers who answer the call. They drop everything and go into a place they don’t know much about and overcome and get the mission done. And the community in Texas was very supportive. They did everything to take care of us, with open arms.”

The story of DelRosario and his unit in Texas would not surprise Keller, who realizes he’s still in the fight.

“Our hospitals are full, we just got some [DOD] nurses that came in to help that are working in our major cities and major hospitals,” Keller said. “The [recent spike in cases], I don’t know if it’s is just people thinking, ‘Is it the time of year again?’ People may have just got COVID fatigue and had enough of this, and not followed guidelines.”

“It’s getting overwhelming, and it’s busy and I think we’re all going to be happy when this vaccine comes out and it starts to work, and we can get back to semi-normal life. But as the North Dakota National Guard, we start something and we start hard, and we finish hard. We’re right in the middle of the whole thing, and still doing testing today.”

You also may be interested in...

Latasha Smith: Warrior against COVID-19

Article Around MHS
2/18/2022
Military personnel looking at a patient's cardiac rhythm

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Latasha Smith, an Airman assigned to the 86th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, was celebrated as Airlifter of the Week, Jan. 27, 2022, after leading the assault against COVID-19 for over a year.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

COVID-19 therapeutics support DOD pandemic response

Article Around MHS
2/11/2022
Military personnel getting COVID-29 doses ready

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency is helping to protect the operational force by distributing several new therapeutic options that help to lessen the symptoms of mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 and keep Soldiers, their families and beneficiaries out of the hospital.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines continues to study long-term effects of COVID-19 on Marines

Article Around MHS
2/10/2022
Medical military personnel talking to a patient

A team composed of U.S. Navy medical personnel and civilian technicians based out of the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, assembled during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 to study the short and long-term effects that the virus has on Marines. 

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Getting up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccine

Article Around MHS
2/8/2022
Military personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. Guard Coast is that we have vaccines to help prevent serious illness if you contract COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Oregon National Guard surging to support hospitals again

Article Around MHS
1/27/2022
Oregon Army National Guard touring a hospital

Hundreds of Oregon National Guard members are increasing support of hospitals throughout the state in their second hospital relief mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Readiness Capabilities

Public Health nurses offer insights on living with COVID-19 now, looking into future

Article Around MHS
1/25/2022
The Challenges of Living with COVID

One of the more challenging jobs for any public health professional is dealing with unpredictability inherent in outbreaks like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Navy Hospital Corpsman steps into the breach in the war on COVID-19

Article Around MHS
1/18/2022
Hospitalman Hector Conde standing in front of a immunization office's refrigeration

First responders and those fighting on the medical battleground have earned well-deserved recognition for their efforts.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

This is my Why

Article Around MHS
12/30/2021
Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock poses for a photo after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination

Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock stated his reason for getting the vaccine was to help his mother and son be able to have a play date again.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

So others may breathe - Navy Medicine Respiratory Therapist cares for COVID casualties

Article Around MHS
12/13/2021
Military Health personnel posing for a picture

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tessa Hazard, a respiratory therapist, recently deployed to Alabama as a member of a COVID-19 response team.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Army Public Health Center provides update on Long COVID risks

Article Around MHS
12/1/2021
COVID19 Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

JTF Coyote begins pediatric COVID-19 clinics as adult booster vaccination numbers increase

Article Around MHS
11/23/2021
Military health personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The Vermont National Guard now supports the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccinations for youth in the 5 to 11 age group and booster clinics for the general adult population.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

USECAF receives insight into COVID19 vaccinations at Reserve wing

Article Around MHS
10/8/2021
Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visits with 433rd Airlift Wing members at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 2, 2021.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visited the 433rd Airlift Wing here to meet with Reserve Citizen Airmen leaders on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Oct. 2, 2021.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

Compassionate Caring with COVID Vax Commitment

Article Around MHS
10/6/2021
A  female doctor poses for a photo.

When pregnant patients have an appointment with Lt. Cmdr. Megan Northup at Naval Hospital Bremerton, they get more than a qualified and caring OB/GYN physician.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus

Retired colonel leads Fort Irwin COVID response mission

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
Army Col. Richard Hopkins, the COVID-19 response coordinator with Weed Army Community Hospital, collects paperwork from a Soldier who received the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event.

Retired Army Col. Richard Hopkins volunteered under the Army’s COVID-19 Retiree Recall Program to return to service as the COVID-19 response coordinator for Weed Army Community Hospital and Fort Irwin, California.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2
Refine your search
Last Updated: September 01, 2021

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.