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3,600 Guardsmen Contribute to New York's COVID-19 Fight

April 22, 2020

Nearly seven weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic response mission, the New York National Guard had 3,600 troops performing missions ranging from answering public inquiry hotlines to assisting New York City in retrieving the remains of those who have died at home.

A helicopter with two top rotors nears a landing pad. A bridge and the New York City skyline are in the background.
Helipad Approach
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the New York Army National Guard’s Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation, approaches a helipad in New York City, April 16, 2020. New York National Guard members are supporting the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Sean Madden, New York Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200416-Z-AO733-0180C


Along with 2,993 Army National Guard soldiers and 452 Air National Guard airmen, members of the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard, the state defense force, also are serving.

The emotionally and physically challenging mission of assisting the New York City medical examiner's office in the dignified recovery of human remains is the toughest mission facing the soldiers and airmen, Army Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the New York adjutant general, said. There are 255 soldiers and airmen handling this mission.

A soldier walks to a helicopter’s open cargo door.
Chopper Boarding
A soldier boards a CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the New York Army National Guard at a helipad in New York City, April 16, 2020. New York National Guard members are supporting the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Sean Madden, New York Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200416-Z-AO733-0319


The medical examiner's office is responsible for the recovery of people who die outside of a hospital. The staff was overwhelmed at the spike in COVID-19-related deaths in the city of 8.5 million people, so city officials turned to the New York National Guard for help, and Guard soldiers and airmen are on duty around the clock to help.

"Your work makes a difference for families at a very critical time of need when their loss is most personal," Shields told members of the detail April 2.

We want to make sure that all our health care professionals have the personal protection equipment needed to do their jobs and keep themselves safe."
Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie Kimball, New York National Guard

The mission started with specially trained airmen of the 107th Attack Wing's fatality search and recovery team. As the demands of the mission grew, additional troops were assigned. Now, soldiers from the 101st Signal Battalion, the 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, also are handling this duty.

In addition, New York National Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting 10 drive through COVID-19 test sites run by the state health department. Since the first site opened outside New Rochelle in Westchester County on March 15, 116,126 people have been tested at the sites.

A soldiers packs reusable bags
Bagging Meals
New York Army National Guard Spc. Thalio Hinajosa, assigned to Battery B, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, part of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, packs reusable bags with meals for distribution to the community at the Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center in New York City, March 30, 2020. Hinajosa is among more than 2,700 members of the New York National Guard responding to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Army Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Gallo, New York National Guard
VIRIN: 200330-Z-A3538-0001A


A major mission has been the packaging and delivery of meals. When the mission started, the goal was to provide meals to New Rochelle families whose children would be missing school lunches because of closed schools. Since then, the effort has expanded into a major feeding operation in New York City.

As of April 18, soldiers and airmen in New York City had distributed 1,398,947 meals since the start of the mission. On April 17 alone, 111,792 meals were provided in New York City. The mission has grown so much that additional soldiers deployed from western New York to help.

On April 14, Army 1st Lt. Jessica Reed, a platoon leader in the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry led 25 soldiers from Niagara Falls to New York City to assist in the food distribution mission in the Bronx. The soldiers had been preparing for the mission since March, Reed said.

Soldiers give out boxes of food on a crowded urban street.
Food Distribution
New York Army National Guard soldiers provide support to the New York City food distribution site in the Bronx, N.Y., Apr. 18, 2020. The soldiers are assigned to the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, part of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. They are part of a citywide effort to support food distribution to those in need, providing more than 1 million meals across New York City.
Photo By: Courtesy of Brad Harrelson, New York City Office of Emergency Management
VIRIN: 200418-Z-A3538-0383


"Word got out that this was a potential thing," said Reed, a member of the squadron's Bravo Troop. "We had our guys come into armories to fill out paperwork and pack the essential things we knew they might need."

The food distribution mission in Westchester County has provided 68,333 meals, while soldiers in Albany County distributed 1,406 meals to people in quarantine.

Soldiers and airmen are conducting warehouse operations at six locations across New York. They have been moving supplies to troops in the field across the state.

It's not exciting work, but it is important, said Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie Kimball of the New York Guard's 1569th Transportation Company, 369th Sustainment Brigade.

A crew member walks toward the left to return to his helicopter as a soldier walking toward the right carries a package the crew member delivered.
Chinook Delivery
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the New York Army National Guard makes a delivery at a helipad in New York City, April 16, 2020. New York National Guard members are supporting the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Sean Madden, New York Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200416-Z-AO733-0302


"I feel proud that we can do something in a time of need," Kimball said. "We want to make sure that all our health care professionals have the personal protection equipment needed to do their jobs and keep themselves safe."

Another necessary product being distributed by the New York National Guard is hand sanitizer being packaged by the New York State Department of Corrections and Custodial Services. Troops have distributed 35,432 gallons of hand sanitizer in the Hudson Valley since the mission began.

In the state capital of Albany, soldiers and airmen have been putting together COVID-19 testing kits to support the state health department. On April 17,the soldiers produced 8,300 kits, for a total of 191,000 since the mission began.

"The Guard is helping us out with trying to get as many kits out as we can," said Alexis Tripodo, a state employee of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. "They are helping out tremendously with the speed of the completed kits and making sure it's accurate, making sure every bag is packed correctly. The more people we have, the faster we can get these to the sites and the more people we can test."

Two soldiers wearing facemasks sit across from each other and build test kits.
Test Kits
New York Army National Guard soldiers assemble coronavirus specimen collection test kits at the New York State Department of Health in Albany, N.Y., April 4, 2020. The test kits will be used at drive-thru sample sites across New York as part of the statewide effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Mike Wren, N.Y. State Department of Health
VIRIN: 200404-Z-A3538-1037

In New York City, the New York National Guard continues to support the alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients established at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Some 2,100 military medical staff members are working at Javits and in New York City hospitals. Soldiers of the Army's 44th Medical Brigade are providing staffing at the center, now operating as the Javits New York Medical Station. Additional medical staff members come from the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Air Force and the Civilian Medical Reserve Corps. A total of 2,708 people are working at the alternative care facility, and more than 950 patients have received care there.

New York National Guard members continue to manage the Javits site as the unified command post for the multiagency response and are providing other logistical and administrative help.

On Easter Sunday, Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jacob Marvel of the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing made sure that anyone who wanted to receive communion that day had the chance. While ensuring that social distancing protocols were followed, Marvel conducted an abridged Mass for 140 visitors to his temporary chapel at the convention center.

"My goal was to provide spiritual support for people who needed it or wanted it," Marvel explained. "We are in the midst of Holy Days for several religions, and our spirituality is an important part of how we stay balanced in this crisis."

Crew members walk away from a helicopter after landing.
Helipad Dropoff
Members of the New York Army National Guard and New York Naval Militia disembark from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the New York Army National Guard's Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation, at a helipad in New York City, April 16, 2020. New York National Guard members are supporting the multiagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Sean Madden, New York Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200416-Z-AO733-0096


New York National Guard soldiers are supporting an alternative care facility established at the state's South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island, as well as working at the Javits location.

A unique medical mission has placed pararescue airmen of the 106th Rescue Wing at a New York City hospital to assist medical technicians there as they care for patients on ventilators.

New York National Guard soldiers and airmen have been assisting the state health department in answering calls to its coronavirus hotline since the mission began. Working at a call center in Rotterdam, N.Y., and eventually taking overnight and weekend duty, the National Guard members had fielded 183,169 calls since March 11 by late last week.

That mission was phased out early this week, and the soldiers and airmen are moving on to other duties. But a call center operation on behalf of New York City will continue. Guardsmen working there have handled more than 4,000 calls.

"Everyone is doing great work," Shields told the force in an email. "Know that your support is vital to our fellow citizens and is recognized at the highest level by our elected officials."

(Courtesy of the New York National Guard.)