The New Jersey National Guard is answering a call for help from Gov. Phil Murphy by deploying about 150 of its 8,200 members.
Murphy on Monday announced during a news conference in Trenton that he is calling on the Guard to help in “any way necessary” the state’s efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
But this isn’t a mobilization, said Kryn Westhoven, spokesman for the N. J. Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. A mobilization would be if the Guard were called into service by the federal government.
“That’s when you’re calling up whole units,” he said.
This effort, so far, is also a lot smaller than when the Guard was put into service for Superstorm Sandy. About 2,100 were deployed then.
“This time we’re not worrying about doing high water rescues,” Westhoven said. “It’s a whole different scenario.”
The troops from the Army and Air National Guard units across the state will work for N.J.’s Office of Emergency Management and be paid by the state.
They’ll send military police officers to help direct traffic at drive-by testing sites. Others will use National Guard Humvees and trucks to deliver food and other supplies. And they’ll be ready to set up temporary hospitals if needed, Westhoven said.
“We’re in the planning process right now,” he said. “It takes a while to get all the people ready.”
The Guardsmen will likely begin their work later this week, Westhoven said, but that too is still being worked out.
“We’ve done this in the past. It’s something the Guard is prepared and trained for,” he said. “We’re ready and able to serve our fellow citizens.”
This is the first time the Guard has been deployed in N.J. since Superstorm Sandy, in 2012, but they have helped in Florida and other states during natural disasters.
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