TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy dismissed New Jersey’s top military commander Friday after a coronavirus outbreak hit the state’s three veterans homes resulting in 146 deaths.

Col. Lisa Hou takes over immediately from Maj. Gen. Jemal Beale, Murphy said in a statement.

Murphy, a Democrat, faces criticism from Republicans who continue to call for a legislative review of the governor’s handling of the outbreak. He didn’t give a reason for Beale’s dismissal.

Hou, who served as a field surgeon in Afghanistan and Iraq, succeeds Beale, who was sworn into the post in 2018.

“It is an honor to be called upon to lead one of the greatest battles our department has ever faced,” she said in a statement. “Protecting our veterans and supporting our military personnel will be my priority today, and every day. We must all work together to defeat this pandemic and I am committed to doing everything possible to the lead the Department and the National Guard through this difficult period of time.”

She joined the National Guard in 1994 while she was a medical student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She received a doctorate in osteopathic medicine in 1996.

She currently serves as the deputy adjutant general and assistant commissioner for operations at the department.

She has been a top adviser for military readiness, mobilizations, homeland security, defense support to civil authorities, human resources, logistics, training, and financial management to the adjutant general, according to the governor.

The department oversees New Jersey’s three veterans homes in Menlo Park, Paramus and Vineland.

The death toll at the state’s three veterans homes began to mount since the outbreak first hit New Jersey in March. Over the summer, lawmakers began to raise alarms over the climbing toll, saying nearly a third of residents at the homes had died from the virus.

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