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Trump authorizes Pentagon to call up to 1 million reserve troops to active duty for coronavirus fight

New York Army National Guard Soldiers of the 133rd Composite Supply Company, part of the 53rd Troop Command, demonstrate assembling a cot at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City March 26, 2020. The convention center will be an alternate care site to ease the bed shortage of New York Hospitals as part of the state response to the COVID-19 outbreak (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Madden)
March 28, 2020

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday, authorizing the secretaries of defense and homeland security to activate up to 1 million military and coast guard reserve members to assist in the fight against coronavirus.

The language of the executive order states the secretaries may call up members of the military Ready Reserve for up to 24 months, in numbers not to exceed 1 million people at any one time. The order could pull from experienced veterans, including retirees.

The Secretary of Defense may instruct the individual secretaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy to call on their reserve forces. The Secretary of Homeland Security may call upon members of the Coast Guard reserve not operating under the direction of the U.S. Navy.

“I also signed an executive order giving the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to activate the Ready Reserve components of the armed forces,” Trump said Friday, during a coronavirus press briefing. “This will allow us to mobilize medical disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members, including retirees.”

Trump continued, “We have a lot of people — retirees; great, great military people — they’re coming back in — who have offered to support the nation in this extraordinary time of need. And they come back in. They don’t say, ‘How much?’ They don’t say, ‘What are we getting paid?’  They just want to come back in. It’s really an incredible thing to see. It’s beautiful.”

This week, the U.S. Army issued a message through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service — which processes pay for military retirees — asking soldiers with medical training through the military if they would be willing to return to assist in the effort to combat coronavirus. The request came with the caveat that those currently involved in civilian medical efforts disclose their work at hospitals and medical centers, as the Army does not want to pull medical workers already assisting in the public health effort against coronavirus.

It was not clear from the request through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service if those soldiers were being asked to rejoin to active service or if they would serve in a limited capacity without the same commitments.

Military personnel, such as members of New York’s National Guard, have already been called upon to assist in the coronavirus effort and this week began constructing a makeshift hospital at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.