Updated April 14, 2020 - 8:06 pm
The Nevada National Guard’s deployment in response to the coronavirus crisis expanded sharply Tuesday to include more than 800 guardsmen, becoming what will be the largest activation in state history.
“There’s logistical challenges behind that, but it’s been good,” Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, the Guard’s adjutant general, said Tuesday in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s Nevadans helping Nevadans.”
The Guard will be deployed to Southern and Northern Nevada by the end of the week. The new activation was an increase of about 700 guardsmen from the 106 announced by Gov. Steve Sisolak on April 6.
At a news briefing Tuesday afternoon, Sisolak said the state received additional federal funding over the weekend to provide more manpower from the Guard.
“These men and women are essential to helping us direct resources to places that need them the most,” he said. “In the coming days, we’ll be discussing more of the missions the Guard will undertake to help us do this work.”
A majority of the guardsmen are set to report in Las Vegas, where most of Nevada’s confirmed coronavirus cases and related deaths have occurred.
“This is what we’re trained for,” Berry said. “We know and live in the communities in which we’re asked to serve, and we’re ready, prepared and qualified to take on this current pandemic.”
The first 106 deployed guardsmen stood up donation management and supply distribution operations. Now guardsmen will handle medical support, food bank and warehouse logistics, supply transportation and setup of alternate care facilities.
Berry said the Guard had been working for three weeks to determine manpower needs and make sure the infrastructure was in place for state activation.
Requests for assistance have gone through the state Division of Emergency Management, Berry said. One mission will include taking food and protective equipment to rural Native American reservations, he said.
“Once people knew the Guard was going to be involved with the COVID-19 response, they started putting in requests,” he said. “We’re getting requests on a continuous basis, because we’re a force multiplier.”
About 30,000 guardsmen have been activated nationwide. The Nevada Guard is made up of about 3,200 soldiers and 1,200 airmen.
Berry said Guard medical professionals who are already working on COVID-19 response in their civilian jobs will not be asked to report for duty.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified sites in Northern and Southern Nevada that could be used as alternate care facilities. If the counties go forward with plans to build such facilities, the Guard would be available to help, Berry said.
Though this is the largest deployment in state history, Nevada has made large National Guard activation requests in the past, including about 400 guardsmen in response to the 1992 Las Vegas riots after the Rodney King verdict.
At least 200 were deployed during the Northern Nevada floods of 1997, and 140 were deployed in response to flooding in Lemmon Valley in 2017, according to the Nevada National Guard public affairs office.
One thing Berry said has benefited the response to COVID-19 is having the Nevada National Guard Joint Operations Center and the state’s Emergency Operations Center in the same facility, which allows for better coordination and communication as the state determines how to disburse resources and provide support.
“This is a great way to ensure that the state has laid out a model that gets us to the right answer in a faster manner,” he said.