BARRIGADA, Guam – The Guam National Guard has completed more than 38 missions in support of the fight against COVID-19 and is preparing to return to a more normal posture.
In March, when President Donald Trump authorized the use of federal funding to activate the National Guard in response to COVID-19, he appropriated nearly $5.2 million to the Guam National Guard (GUNG) to assist the local government in its battle against the worldwide pandemic.
Since then, more than $4.7 million has been spent on the activation of Soldiers and Airmen, with nearly $40,000 expended on operations and maintenance.
“The COVID-19 response is the longest Guam National Guard response here at home,” said Col. Ronnie Delfin, JTF 671 commander.
Delfin said the largest response by the GUNG was for Super Typhoon Pongsona in 2002 when about 400 Guard members were activated for duty. During this COVID-19 response, there were never more than 300 members activated.
During the pandemic, the GUNG provided security at COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facilities; traffic and crowd management at community testing sites, food distribution sites, and pandemic unemployment assistance sites; disinfection of multiple government facilities; and COVID-19 engineering projects.
“Spending is based on troops to task,” said Delfin. “We only bring in the number of people we need for a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) mission. The onus is on us to be good stewards; at the end of the day we have to be audit-ready. We need to show what missions these Soldiers and Airmen were executing in support of the public health emergency and consistent with the FEMA mission assignment.”
After supporting the government of Guam and the island community for four months, the Guard is preparing to drawback troops as the president's order for the National Guard to respond and to facilitate economic recovery ends Aug. 21.
“Currently, our orders officially end Aug. 21, but the DOD (Department of Defense) guidance has us off orders by Aug. 7,” said Delfin. “The remaining 14 days is reserved for those who may have to be tested for COVID and quarantined.”
Should the government of Guam require National Guard support after Aug. 21, the GUNG has plans in place if a request comes from the governor.
“We are putting together some estimates to keep a small number of people on board if there is no extension,” said Delfin. “One of the options is to revert back to state active duty, and if we do that, the personnel we keep will be specific to the quarantine mission.”