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Army calling on retired docs, medics to return to fight coronavirus

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Retired soldiers with medical experience are being asked to volunteer to return to duty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with emails suggesting they "re-join the team" being sent directly to former military members.

Calling it a "voluntary recall," the U.S. Army "is reaching out to gauge the interest of our retired officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers who would be willing to assist with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic response effort should their skills and expertise be required," said the email, which was first reported by TucsonSentinel.com.

The Pentagon has not publicly announced the effort, and it was not apparent if other service branches were taking part in the effort. Emails were received by former soldiers in the Tucson area on Wednesday, with a copy of the document forwarded to TucsonSentinel.com.

"While this is targeted at medical specialties, if you are interested in re-joining the team and were in a different specialty, let us know your interest," the email said.

The announcement was sent to ex-Army troops who have completely separated from the military, with no Reserve or National Guard obligations.

"These extraordinary challenges require equally extraordinary solutions and that's why we're turning to you — trusted professionals capable of operating under constantly changing conditions. When the nation called — you answered, and now, that call may come again," read the email, signed by LtG. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel.

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From the email:

If interested and you remain qualified to serve in any of the following health care specialties: 60F: Critical Care Officer; 60N: Anesthesiologist; 66F: Nurse Anesthetist; 66S: Critical Care Nurse; 66P: Nurse Practitioner; 66T: ER Nurse; 68V: Respiratory Specialist; 68W: Medic - we need to hear from you STAT!

If you are working in a civilian hospital or medical facility, please let us know. We do not want to detract from the current care and treatment you are providing to the nation.


If interested please contact Human Resources Command, Reserve Personnel Management Directorate, at usarmy.knox.hrc.mbx.g3-retiree-recall@mail.mil or call 502-613-4911, and provide your phone number, address, email, and MOS/Branch.

The military's slow response to the CV-19 outbreak has been criticized by some, with Stanley McChrystal, the retired former U.S. general who commanded forces in Afghanistan, writing in an email reported by the New York Times that "My sense is that the mission to defend America against enemies, foreign and domestic, should be interpreted to include even unconventional threats like the ongoing pandemic. I believe they can, should, and ultimately will be required to do much more."

From the Times, in a lengthy report published Wednesday afternoon:

The American military is recognized as a formidable fighting force, with logistical, communications and supply networks that excel in extremis. The people now calling on the military to help think more can and should be done, as a number of governors, mayors and municipal officials in besieged cities across the United States have made television appearances to plead for aid from the Defense Department.

"The military has extraordinary medical capacity of its own that's been honed in fighting wars," Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "They can handle any situation. All that great personnel who are medically trained should be sent to places where this crisis is deep, like New York, right now."

In particular, the armed services know how to set up command-and-control centers, how to stock warehouses and how to transport doctors, nurses and medical materials around the country, and quickly.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the country's top military officer, said on Monday that two Army field hospitals would arrive in New York and Seattle by Thursday, bringing to each city the ability to care for an additional 248 patients. The hospitals, one to each city, will have 11 ventilators each.

Other mobile combat hospitals are prepared to deploy and may soon be headed to stricken areas, General Milley said. The Mercy, the Navy hospital ship based in San Diego, is bound for Los Angeles with its 1,000 beds.

But critics say that is not enough, and that the deployments do not scratch the surface of what one of the world's most powerful militaries — and the country's top logistical organization — is able to accomplish. The Pentagon has "lost precious time, especially in terms of planning a military response," said Paul Eaton, a retired major general and veteran of the Iraq war, who now serves as a senior adviser at VOTEVETS.ORG. "Now we have a situation where the military response is like whack-a-mole, trying to respond to hot spots as they pop up."

He said the Pentagon "must unleash the military planners to plan now for a wider response, to ensure every area gets what it needs, without putting undue strain on our resources."

The military is not at the forefront of the country's efforts to fight the coronavirus for many reasons.

For one, President Trump has yet to announce any sort of nationwide quarantine, so there is little the active-duty military can or should do to enforce recommendations for social distancing. Pentagon officials are also acutely aware of the image of uniformed troops marching into American cities; they have dealt in recent weeks with rampant rumors on social media of martial law.

With the response to the virus largely done on a state-by-state basis so far, that has meant an increased role for the National Guard. About 9,000 National Guard troops across the country have been called up.

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N.Y. National Guard

New York Army National Guard medics who will be helping with information collection at a 'drive-thru' coronavirus testing station in Westchester County, receive instruction on how to wear protective clothing from Westchester County health sanitarian Stefan Goreau at the New York State Department of Health officers in New Rochelle, N.Y. on March 14, 2020.