LATHAM, N.Y. - More than 840 days after the first Soldiers and Airmen went on duty to stem an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in New Rochelle, the New York National Guard’s federally supported COVID-19 mission came to an end June 30.
A force of 269 personnel will remain on state active duty to assist with logistics support and resolve outstanding financial accounts. But no Soldiers and Airmen will remain on federal duty.
The mission, which ran for almost 2 1/2 years, is the most extended domestic operations mission ever conducted by the New York National Guard.
The next longest was during World War I. At that time, 2,000 New York State Guard members were on duty from April 5, 1917, until the war’s end Nov. 11, 1918 — 585 days — to guard railroads, the Erie Canal, and the New York City water system.
From March 2020 to the end of June 2022, 7,077 uniformed men and women did everything from delivering 112,707 gallons of hand sanitizer to helping the New York City medical examiner’s office recover the remains of 5,641 New Yorkers who died in their homes during the pandemic.
“I have been amazed by our service members and their work for New York State and our fellow citizens since March 2020 as we responded to the most significant pandemic in more than 100 years,” said Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York.
“All I can say to the 7,000-plus service members who served on the COVID mission over 28 months is — thank you,” Shields said.
While performing these duties, New York Army and Air National Guard men and women continued to meet their federal missions.
Over 600 Soldiers from the 42nd Infantry Division went to Kuwait in 2020 to command Task Force Spartan Shield. And throughout 2021 and 2022, New York Army Guard units prepared to deploy 2,800 Soldiers to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.
Meanwhile, the New York Air National Guard supplied research camps in Antarctica and Greenland in 2020, 2021 and 2022, contributed Airmen to Air Expeditionary Wings and deployed rescue assets to the Horn of Africa.
And in 2021, the New York National Guard deployed 1,723 Soldiers and Airmen in Title 32 status to assist in security missions in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
The initial COVID-19 mission required New York National Guard troops to provide school lunches to New Rochelle school district students. The school had been closed, and the goal was to ensure kids who relied on school lunches got them.
The mission extended to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in 22 public buildings to destroy the virus. Then the mission expanded to testing people for COVID-19.
Then the pandemic became a national emergency, and every state stood up with Guard forces with federal funding.
Between March 8, 2020, and July 1, 2022, 5,420 New York Army National Guard Soldiers participated in the COVID-19 mission out of a force of 10,700. Out of the 6,000 New York Air National Guard members, 1,080 participated in the mission.
New York’s state defense forces — the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard — contributed 392 and 182 personnel to the COVID-19 mission.
The task of the troops changed as the pandemic changed.
Guardsmen worked in call centers, distributed over 50 million meals in New York City, collected health care forms from travelers at airports, and assembled millions of COVID-19 test sets.
New York National Guard Soldiers put up a field hospital in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City and helped care for 1,094 COVID-19 patients. Then they turned the site into the largest vaccination clinic in the country and administered 647,973 shots.
The New York National Guard provided 485 Army Guard medics and Air Guard medical technicians to work in nursing homes to solve a staffing shortage.
The state-funded training of 400 military personnel as emergency medical technicians increases that pool of personnel. All but 66 of them became EMT certified.
By June 1, 2022, the New York National Guard had provided 747 personnel at 94 nursing homes.