More than 17,000 people responded to the Army’s call for medical personnel last week, service officials said, and human resources professionals are now sifting through those responses as they vet volunteers to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Army surgeon general said Thursday that the volunteers could be used to fill the roles of current medical personnel normally assigned to installation treatment facilities who may be called upon to deploy elsewhere in the United States.
Respondents were not just retired soldiers from prior medical specialities in the Army, however. They included retirees from a wide array of backgrounds, to include retired personnel from other service branches. The responses also come at a time when unemployment is rising across the country due to the drop in economic activity under the pandemic.
Army Human Resources Command sent the numbers to the office of the Army’s deputy chief of staff for manpower. Personnel at the command will continue vetting and reaching out to respondents over the next week. The large number of responses will take some time to assess, service officials said.
Some respondents, for instance, were former soldiers who did not serve in a medical specialty, but did earn nursing licenses or other certifications after they left the Army. Vetting those people’s qualifications is an ongoing process.
The Army sent roughly 800,000 former soldiers an email on March 25 to gauge their interest in assisting with the coronavirus pandemic response. The call for volunteers listed a series of heath care careers the service is interested in, including critical care officers, various nursing specialties and former medics.
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 on Thursday.
“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.”
Army officials have said they want to make sure they’re not sapping any volunteers away from state authorities who need them instead. The email sent Wednesday asked respondents to tell the Army if they’re currently working for a civilian hospital.
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.
Three Army field hospitals have so far been ordered to deploy to two of the hardest hit cities by the pandemic thus far, New York City and Seattle, Washington.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has 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.