The COVID-19 pandemic, raging wildfires and Afghan evacuees dominated U.S. Army North’s agenda in 2021.
ARNORTH administered 5 million COVID-19 vaccines in the past year, while assisting in massive firefighting efforts, helping tens of thousands of Afghan refugees and supporting relief efforts for Hurricane Ida.
ARNORTH, which falls under U.S. Northern Command, is how the Army works operations, training and missions in the U.S. homeland.
Lt. Gen. John R. Evans Jr. heads ARNORTH, also known as Fifth Army, out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Evans shared updates on the work of ARNORTH this past year with Army Times ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting.
The most immediate problem tossed to the command involves the refugees brought to the United States after the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Right now, the command is “synchronizing efforts to support at least 50,000 Afghans being temporarily housed at eight military installations” across the country, Evans said.
In early October, U.S. Northern Command officials said that about 4,000 Afghans at the eight U.S. bases have completed medical screening and the three-week quarantine required after receiving vaccines for diseases like measles and mumps.
The focus recently has turned to resettling the refugees elsewhere in the country, but many Afghans still remain on U.S. military installations.
ARNORTH also supported the National Interagency Fire Center’s wildland fire response operations in Northern California with an estimated 200 soldiers. The troops worked alongside civilian wildland firefighters on the Dixie Fire beginning in July. It was the second-largest fire in California’s history.
ARNOTH’s home station, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, is also part of a three-year experiment to test the capabilities of 5th Generation Cell on Light Truck technology, which could help in future disasters.
This 5G CoLT has the potential to help send classified and encrypted data from one point to another without costly infrastructure. That capability would ensure emergency and government agencies can communicate in the midst of a disaster zone, an often difficult task when storms are raging.
One major disaster ARNORTH helped with this year did not involve weather patterns, though.
“Throughout the whole-of-government response to COVID-19, U.S. Army North has supported the deployment of more than 4,700 military medical personnel to civilian hospitals and more than 5,100 to vaccination sites,” Evans said.
During the past year, ARNORTH oversaw active-duty military support to federal vaccination efforts, including personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force, who worked in 25 states and one territory. Together, they administered approximately 5 million vaccines.
As the COVID-19 response continues, more than 200 military medical personnel are working with civilian healthcare workers at hospitals in 10 cities in six states. These include providing support for the first time to Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi and Tennessee.
But the real-world disasters didn’t distract ARNORTH from the command’s international exercises on its docket. Troops from the command participated in Fuerzas Amigas, Vigilant Guard, Vibrant Response, Vigilant Shield, and civil support training across the United States throughout the year.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.