Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has issued deployment orders to three Army hospital centers, the service said Tuesday afternoon.
The orders will deploy the 531st Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky; the 627th Hospital from Fort Carson, Colorado; and the 9th Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas, to deploy to New York and Washington states.
All of those units are active duty, an Army headquarters spokesperson said. The field hospitals could arrive at their destinations in as few as seven days or less, they added.
New York and Washington have been among the worst hit states thus far by the coronavirus pandemic. Washington has reported more than 2,000 cases, while New York’s numbers surpass 20,000, according to the Center for Disease Control.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that Army field hospitals, which can have as many as 250 beds each, will likely be sent first to New York City and Seattle, two cities with hospital systems overwhelmed by the pandemic.
“Once that’s confirmed, we will look at sending to other places,” Esper said. “We will, of course, take our sourcing guidance from” the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal agency that coordinates disaster response plans.
There are other hospitals and expeditionary medical facilities across the other military services that could eventually be tapped, the defense secretary said.
Esper also said that a majority of medical professionals in field hospitals and hospital ships that could be called upon will come from the reserves components.
“The balance will likely come from active-duty military treatment facilities,” he added. “We’re very conscious, as we draw people to staff up the ships or the hospitals.”
The Army hospitals will bring with them a suite of facilities that amount to full hospital capability, Army headquarters said in its press release. Though they’re designed to be trauma hospitals, the units can also function as full-service medical facilities for all types of patients.
The hospitals come with intensive-care-unit beds, immediate-care beds, operating rooms, an emergency department, X-ray technology and pharmacies.
The Army’s deployments come after it was announced that the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort will deploy to New York within two weeks to assist overcrowded hospitals there.
Esper noted that deployed units will be working with FEMA and the CDC during their stateside missions, but cautioned that the U.S. military will have to retain assets for internal needs.
“We only have so much capacity to begin with because again, at the end of the day, we have to protect our mission capabilities,” Esper said Monday. “There’s going to be a limit to what we can provide if we want to safeguard our military capability."
The Pentagon has also tasked the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit hotels and other facilities into medical clinics and the National Guard chief has stated that he expects tens of thousands of Guard personnel to ultimately be called upon during the public health crisis.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.