Trump opens the door to call on former active service members to fight coronaviruses

Mar 28, 2020 10:55 PM ET

“In this way, we can mobilize disaster and emergency medical personnel to lead our fight against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members, including retirees,” Trump told reporters Friday.

The order grants the Secretary of Defense powers to appoint members, but there is currently no evidence that this will happen. Such a call is typically used when the military needs certain skills.

“Decisions about which people can be activated are still under review. In general, these members are people in headquarters and people with high-demand medical skills who will not be drafted to affect their civilian communities,” said Jonathan Hoffman, who Pentagon chief spokesman said in a statement late Friday.

“This is a dynamic situation. We currently have no planned number of expected activations, but the department is now fully authorized to do activations as needed,”; said Hoffman.

In most cases, members of the service will join the so-called individual standby reserve after completing their military obligations.

This status as a standby reserve does not require active participation, which causes the vast majority of members of the service to consider this status as non-military. Most service members have been in this designation for a period of years.

In the past, there have been a handful of cases where members of this reserve have been called up for active service – for example, during the culmination of both Iraq wars.

Trump said on Friday, “We have a lot of people, retirees. Great military men. They are coming back who have offered to support the nation in this extraordinary time of need.”

“And they come back. They don’t say, ‘How much?’ They don’t say, “What are we paid for?” They just want to go back in. It’s really incredible to see. It’s beautiful, “he added.

The U.S. Army has also contacted retired medical personnel this week to potentially volunteer to support the coronavirus response. In an email received from CNN on Wednesday, the army asked retired personnel to search for a “voluntary recall of retired soldiers” with specific medical specialties.

An army spokesman had told CNN that they “are assessing the availability and capabilities of our retired medical personnel to help address the COVID-19 pandemic if necessary.”

The spokesman made it clear that the army does not want to interfere with civilian medical needs, adding that “this request for information will not in any way affect the care of their communities; it is for future planning purposes only and is completely voluntary.”

More than 800,000 retired soldiers received the notification to assess their willingness to help respond to the Covid 19 pandemic, the army said in a statement on Thursday, adding that “more than 9,000 to date” have expressed interest to have.

“The initial response was very positive,” the statement said.

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