Despite COVID-19, U.S. Military Remains Ready to Fight
by C. Todd Lopez, DOD News
April 18, 2020
"To those who wish us harm, make no mistake: even with the
challenges that this disease has brought to our shores, the
Department of Defense stands ready to meet any threat and defend our
nation," Norquist said during a news conference on April 9, 2020 at the
Pentagon. "Over the last four years, we have rebuilt our military
from the negative effects of sequestration. We have more people,
more advanced equipment, more munitions and are better trained. If
our adversaries think this is our moment of weakness, they are
Norquist said DOD support of state and
local authorities in the fight against the coronavirus means that
DOD people might end up with a higher rate of infection from the
virus than other populations. But at the same time, he said, the
youthful demographic of the U.S. military means that fewer of those
who contract the virus will suffer severe consequences.
According to Defense Department statistics ... of the 1,898 current
coronavirus cases among active duty service members, only 64
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the
vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said readiness across
the department is where it needs to be.
"We watch the
readiness of the force every day. And the readiness of the force, in
aggregate, has not dropped as we've gone through this," Hyten said.
"That's something that we have to watch very, very closely."
April 7, 2020 -U.
S. Navy Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt
wearing a personal protective mask take meals to asymptomatic sailors, who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are housed at local hotels in Guam. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Rivera)
While there are "pockets"
of degraded readiness across the force, such as the aircraft carrier
USS Theodore Roosevelt staying in port in Guam longer than it
normally would, the aggregate readiness is unaffected, he said.
What may eventually affect readiness, Hyten said, is a prolonged
reduction in numbers of new recruits entering basic training for
"We've had to cut down the pipeline into
basic training in order to make sure that the folks that go into
basic training, go into basic training in a safe, secure way. Each
of the services, working in a different way, have constricted the
pipeline of folks coming in," Hyten said. "For a short period of
time, that's not a big issue. If that continues long, then all of a
sudden our numbers come down. And that will eventually impact
readiness if it goes on month after month after month."
for now, Hyten said, "our readiness is still full up."
April 7, 2020 -
U. S. Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Anderson and Staff Sgt. Michael Zitelli perform a basic post-flight operations inspection on a C-17 Globemaster III while wearing personal protective equipment at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Seybert)
Hyten also said
the department has some 50,000 personnel involved in the fight
against the coronavirus — of those, he said, about 30,000 are from
the National Guard and reserves.
The general cited one team
of reservists, led by Col. Hans F. Otto at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base, Ohio, as being emblematic of the dedication reservists
and Guard members have had since being called up to duty to fight
"They call themselves the 'COVID
Commandos,'" Hyten said. "Just four days ago, ... their team — one
doctor and six nurses — packed their bags, said goodbye to their
families, [and] deployed to New York with 24 hours' notice. ...
There's been thousands of stories like that since the president
mobilized the reserve [March 27, 2020]."
Across the department,
military doctors, nurses and enlisted medical professionals are
leaving home to deploy to places across the country to aid civilian
doctors and protect the nation, the general said.
April 7, 2020- U.S. Navy Seaman Rylan Haggerty stages intravenous medication for later use on the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort moored at New York City. (U. S.
Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Eshleman)
"They're moving fast to help their
fellow citizens in a time of crisis," he added. "They're helping to
support the heroic doctors and nurses already there who are tired
and have been fighting that disease for the last few weeks, and they
need support. That's what they're there for. And that's just a few
examples of the sacrifice that citizen airmen and citizen soldiers
are making from all units in order to fight and improve the lives of
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