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National Guard expected to be deployed ‘soon’ in Washington state coronavirus response

National Guard (Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith, National Guard Bureau/Released)

The Washington National Guard is expected to be deployed soon to respond to the new coronavirus outbreak by assisting local food banks, state officials said Tuesday.

“I expect they will be deployed in a supportive way very soon,” Gov. Jay Inslee’s Chief of Staff, David Postman, told reporters, saying that details would be available in the next few days.

Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Washington Military Department, said the Guard is expected to assist local food banks around the state, including those in Pierce County, and that help may begin Thursday.

“I’m not entirely clear on the mission because I haven’t seen the whole thing yet, but it would be either help with distribution of food or transportation of food, but it would be direct assistance to local food banks,” she said.

Shagren said about 130 to 140 guardsmen are expected to take part in the mission “as long as they’re needed.”

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“I don’t think we put a timeframe on it. We are certainly ready to assist as long as communities need us,” she said, adding that it will be a joint mission with the Air National Guard and Army National Guard.

Postman said he doesn’t expect the National Guard to be fulfilling a law enforcement role.

In response to a reporter’s question, Postman said: “They’re great at logistics, distribution, construction. They’re great at anything we need. There’s nothing alarming about what we are considering using the Guard for…It’s not being done because of any increased threat. It’s not being done because of any increased restrictions that the Governor is going to announce. It’s just to help some of the operations that are going on today in a support role.”

Postman said the governor’s office has discussed deployment of the National Guard regularly over the past several weeks and the Guard responds to requests from local communities for assistance.

“We don’t send the National Guard into a community without a request from the locals for back-up,” he said.

At the call of the Governor, the Washington National Guard will mobilize and deploy during times of state emergency to assist local jurisdictions and responders in their efforts to protect lives and property. The Washington National Guard is also subject to the call of the United States President to serve as part of the total U.S. Military, according to the state Military Department.

The Military Times reported Monday that nationwide, more than 14,830 Air and Army National Guard professionals are supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors.

“This response isn’t just about delivering food or supporting COVID test centers. It’s about protecting our children, parents and grandparents,” Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau, told the newspaper. “Our nation is looking to the National Guard to help and we can’t let them down.”

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© 2020 The News Tribune