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Gov. Kate Brown asks for federal support to mobilize up to 1,250 members of the Oregon National Guard

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon National Guard, plan their next movement during patrol at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Sgt. Aaron Berogan/U.S. Army)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is asking the federal government to fund the potential mobilization of 1,250 members of the Oregon National Guard to help the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brown sent a letter to President Donald Trump on March 27 asking the White House to invoke provisions of Title 32 of the U.S. Code, which allow governors to retain command of their National Guard forces, while being funded by the federal government. If the request is approved, it would free up state money for the continued response to the coronavirus crisis.

Trump has already approved Title 32 requests for at least eight states, including Washington, New York and California.

“Authorization to mobilize 1,250 members of the Oregon Army and Air National Guard pursuant to Title 32 will provide much needed logistical, medical, communications, and coordinating skills that are invaluable to Oregon’s efforts in stopping and mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” Brown wrote in her letter.

All seven members of Oregon’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the White House Wednesday backing Brown’s request.

The Oregon National Guard has already helped the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic by transporting and distributing personal protective gear and assisting with the set up of temporary medical facilities, including one at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. Guards members also helped Providence Seaside Hospital in set up tents to be used for testing and triaging local residents who may have contracted COVID-19.

“Due to the rapidity of this crisis, the Oregon National Guard is uniquely positioned to fulfill immediate requirements for our communities,” Brown wrote in her letter.

Stephen Bomar, a spokesman for the Oregon Military Department, said approximately 40 guard members have been mobilized to state active duty, but that the department expects that number to increase exponentially as the need for transporting and distributing personal protective gear rises.

State military leaders are working with other state agencies, including the Oregon Health Authority and the Office of Emergency Management, to coordinate the guard’s response.

“I think the biggest takeaway is we’re all one team working together to try to help our state,” Bomar said.


© 2020 The Oregonian