Gov. Phil Murphy explained during his Monday briefing that he is bringing in the New Jersey National Guard to help “fill gaps” in the state’s efforts in the coronavirus outbreak.
Murphy said he doesn’t have a specific reason for activating the more than 8,000 men and women of the state’s National Guard, but he said they would be used in a variety of ways in a response that is growing by the day.
Brig. Gen. Jemal Beale serves as the state’s adjutant general, commanding the New Jersey National Guard.
“The list of the potential roles the National Guard can play under the outstanding leadership of Gen. Beale is a long one,” Murphy said. “I can’t sit here today and give you an exact recipe of what they will be doing, but I promise they will be doing a lot.”
Beale said the unit is ready and eager to assist wherever necessary.
“As the governor alluded to, our most likely mission sets are focused on capability gaps,” he said. “There are things like ‘advise and assists,’ logistics, transportation, traffic control, security — or bringing in our engineers to bring a facility back on line that’s needed in some way, shape or form for COVID-19.”
Beale said he already knows a number of specific areas where the Guard can help.
“We will be working closely with the Office of Emergency Management to assist fellow residents as we change from our civilian attire and put on our uniforms and serve this state,” he said. “We will simultaneously be supporting the veterans in our long-term care facilities as well as the veterans’ community across the state. Please know that we are monitoring the current situation and are monitoring best practices implemented nationally by our counterparts in other states.”
Using the military to aid in operations is being discussed throughout the region and country.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday called on the federal government to send the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit state buildings in an effort to increase the number of hospital beds.
At Monday’s briefing, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said New Jersey is looking at potentially bringing a closed hospital back on line. It is unclear how long that would take, what the process would entail and how the Guard or other military units could help.
Murphy was asked about this Tuesday morning on the “Today” show: Whether he thinks there needs to be hospitals constructed from the ground up.
“Potentially,” he said. “It’s part of the reason we’ve called up the National Guard. Because the National Guard can play a multitude of roles, including engineering and helping us construct. I think we’re probably first going to look at wings of hospitals that have been closed to reopen. And then full hospitals, we don’t have many of them, but we have some that have been closed, to be reopened. And maybe dormitory settings that can be converted to quarantine setup. Is the Army Corps potentially down the road? Absolutely. We’re going to take this in phases.”
Beale, who was sworn in as the 32nd adjutant general of New Jersey on April 2, 2018, directs, controls and manages the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in the execution of federal and state missions. In addition, he manages all state veterans programs, commissions and facilities in New Jersey.
Beale is a combat veteran of Afghanistan. He began his military career in 1987 as an enlisted soldier and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1990 after completing the early commissioning program at Seton Hall University. He has served throughout the U.S., as well as in Afghanistan, Albania, Germany and Italy.
He said the New Jersey National Guard is maintaining a centuries-long tradition of assisting.
“Since 1636, the state militia has responded to the needs of the community during times of uncertainty,” he said. “Today’s modern Army and Air National Guard is a community-based organization that has a footprint in nearly every county within in the state.
“Whether it’s military operations overseas, to serve weather events like hurricanes Katrina, Irene, Superstorm Sandy, the New Jersey National Guard is a vital part of your first responder cohort.
“Over the next few days, weeks or months, we ask that you support our 8,100 citizen airmen and soldiers as we move about through your community in support of the state’s COVID-19 response.”