The US Army has begun calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserve on a voluntary basis in order to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, another sign that the US military is seeking to bolster its medical capability as the pandemic continues to spread.
“On March 29, Human Resources Command sent messages regarding the voluntary recall to nearly 10,000 members of the (Individual Ready Reserve) with specific medical skills,” Lt. Col. Emmanuel Ortiz told CNN in a statement. Military.com was first to report on the voluntary call up.
“Protecting our citizens from the coronavirus is a vital call to action. We need the help of many of our Individual Ready Reserve medical professionals. They possess valuable training, education, skills and talents necessary to win this fight,” he said.
The US Army has played a major role in the response to the coronavirus, deploying and operating field hospitals in states such as New York and Washington, which have been some of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
In most cases, after concluding their military obligations, service members will enter into what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve.
At present the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense.
The ready reserve status requires no active participation or drilling, leading the vast majority of service members to consider being in that status the same as being out of the military. Most service members are in that designation for a period of years.
There have been a handful of cases in the past where members of this reserve have been called up for active duty — such as during the height of both Iraq wars.
The Army is seeking former service members who served in specific mission specialties, including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetist; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist.
“The Army is not seeking medical personnel who are already employed at local community hospitals, as we do not want to detract from their current Covid-19 response efforts,” Ortiz said.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order authorizing the secretary of defense to call up members of the Individual Ready Reserve.
“This will allow us to mobilize medical disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members including retirees,” Trump told reporters Friday.
The Army had previously asked retirees with medical experience to volunteer to be returned to duty to help respond to the coronavirus threat.
“We need to hear from you STAT!” an email to retired personnel obtained by CNN reads.
The email continues, “These extraordinary challenges require equally extraordinary solutions and that’s why we’re turning to you — trusted professionals capable of operating under constantly changing conditions. When the Nation called — you answered, and now, that call may come again.”
An Army spokesman had told CNN that they’re “gauging the availability and capabilities of our retired career medical personnel to potentially assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts if needed.”
A spokesperson for the Army said that some 9,000 retirees had expressed interest in volunteering.
This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.