The Army sent more than 800,000 former soldiers with medical training an email to gauge their interest in assisting with the coronavirus pandemic response, and received more than 9,000 responses, Army leaders said Thursday.
The volunteers could fill in for current Army medical personnel who might be sent to help civilian leaders domestically, the Army’s top medical officer explained during a briefing at the Pentagon.
“We have had some positive responses," Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said. "What we’re looking for is medical expertise.”
An email sent to retirees Wednesday by Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army deputy chief of staff for manpower, listed a series of heath care careers the service is interested in, including critical care officers, various nursing specialties and former medics.
“We’re getting many volunteers," said Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle. “We’ll then walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials are straight. Then once we do that, we’ll plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission.”
The email does mention that if recipients are currently working in a civilian hospital or medical facility, to let the Army know, as service officials say they "do not want to detract from the current care and treatment you are providing to the nation.”
Army Medical Command plans to use the volunteers to fill the roles of current medical personnel normally assigned to treatment facilities who may be called upon to deploy.
Within the Army, there have been a total of 288 positive cases of coronavirus out of about 5,000 tests administered to its personnel. That number includes 100 soldiers, 65 dependents, 64 civilian employees, 50 contractors and 9 cadets. So the need for medically-trained soldiers at Army posts is expected to increase.
Volunteers would be leveraged alongside Army reserve soldiers "to fill those holes from the medical treatment facilities, so we can maintain the readiness of our soldiers, as well as the beneficiary population,” Dingle said.
On Tuesday, the secretary of the Army ordered three field hospital to deploy to New York and Washington states to assist governors there in tamping down on the coronavirus pandemic.
Those orders deployed the 531st Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky; the 627th Hospital from Fort Carson, Colorado; and the 9th Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas — all of which are active duty units.
The field hospitals could arrive at their destinations in as few as seven days or less, an Army official said on Tuesday.
New York and Washington have been among the worst hit states thus far by the pandemic. Washington has reported more than 2,500 cases, while New York’s numbers surpass 32,000, according to the Center for Disease Control.