So far, 125 Guard members deployed in R.I.

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Gov. Gina Raimondo talked about calling up as many as 1,000 members of the National Guard on Friday, but so far she and other crisis managers have been careful about actually deploying that many men and women in uniform.

As of Wednesday, 125 Guard members had been deployed as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to officials.

The medical crisis presents a set of problems and challenges that are quite different from other unusual situations that have prompted domestic troop activations in the past.

So far, the pandemic hasn’t stirred domestic strife or resulted in terrorism. It’s not a weather situation, such as the Blizzard of ’78, which cried out for the use of military payloaders.

This is a public health crisis.

This time around, the Guard has been involved with providing “testing capabilities” to the Rhode Island Department of Health, a Guard spokesman, Capt. Mark Incze, wrote in a statement in response to a question from The Providence Journal.

The Guard has also assisted “other agencies” involved in the state’s response, said Incze. That assistance, he said, has involved guidance on how to conduct tests. The Guard has also supported the medical effort by developing procedures to help ensure that people involved with carrying out the state’s response stay healthy, he said.

“Without diving too deeply into the specifics,” said Incze, “the Rhode Island National Guard has members with a broad range of medical experience. Our ranks include licensed Physicians, Physician’s Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Paramedics and EMTs. One of our greatest strengths in this response is the enormous body of medical experience in our ranks that we can draw on.”

Since Friday, Incze said, the Guard has also deployed personnel in small groups where the soldiers and Air Force members can be effective.

For example, at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles in Cranston on Wednesday, a small group of Guard members screened out individuals with potential coronavirus symptoms and kept them from entering the building.

“I’m happy to come out here and help out,” said Staff Sgt. Adrian Yanez, a 27-year-old Westerly man who recently lost his civilian job as an apprentice electrician in a layoff. He’s glad to be working.

At T.F. Green Airport, Guard members have dealt with inbound travelers at the airport. They’ve developed a list of the travelers, written down where they will quarantine and gathered information on family members. Such info would help with efforts at contact tracing down the road if the travelers end up sick.

Other tasks involve training civilian medical personnel, staffing various call centers, distributing food and essential items to the most vulnerable, Incze said.

“We want to make sure we’re bringing the right people on to tackle the right problems as needed,” he said.

It amounts to what he describes as a “scaled response,” so far.

In a news release, the adjutant general of the Guard, Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan said:

“The situation continues to change rapidly and we have the resources and capabilities available to local emergency managers to assist and support their response efforts. Our interagency partnerships are the cornerstone of our state’s preparedness in this response effort. We remain involved and ready to support our partners for as long as needed.”

mreynold@providencejournal.com

(401) 277-7490

On Twitter: @mrkrynlds

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