US Northern Command Leading Military Support to COVID-19 Response

Mar 31, 2020 | DTJ Online

US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is leading the Department of Defense’s (DOD) response to COVID-19 efforts in the continental United States. The command’s work will also provide support to state and local partners.

“Our hospital ship USNS Mercy has arrived in the Port of Long Beach, outside of Los Angeles, and received her first patients today, while her sister ship, USNS Comfort is scheduled to arrive in New York City tomorrow,” said Gen Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, USAF, Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command. “Additionally, we are deploying three Army field hospitals to Washington State and New Jersey, which will be up and running by April 2. We are also preparing to deploy a large Navy medical team from Jacksonville, Florida, to expand medical capabilities where needed.”

Hospital Ships

The two deployed hospital ships are operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC). The ships will serve as referral hospitals for patients not infected with COVID-19 by providing a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care, and ward care for adults. This support will allow shore-based civilian hospitals to focus on their medical care devoted to the treatment of COVID 19 patients. Both ships have the ability to host up to 1,000 patients, with 12 operating rooms, 20 post-anesthesia beds, and 80 Intensive Care Unit beds.

The USNS Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego with over 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat medical treatment facility (MTF) and over 70 civil service mariners. It arrived in the port of Long Beach, outside of Los Angeles, on Friday, March 27, and has since begun to accept non-COVID-19 patients.

The USNS Comfort departed Naval Station Norfolk with over 1,100 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat medical treatment facility (MTF), and over 70 civil service mariners. It is scheduled to arrive in New York City on Monday, March 30.

Field Hospitals

Three Army field hospitals have deployed to COVID-19 hot spots. Like the hospital ships, the field hospitals will treat non-COVID-19 patients in an effort to free up civilian hospitals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients. All three are expected to begin taking patients by April 2. 

A Soldier assigned to the 627th Hospital Center unloads baggage at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, as her units arrive from Ft. Carson, Colorado, March 27, 2020. This unit deployed from Fort Carson to provide medical assistance in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response. US Northern Command, through US Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. Photo by Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele Tejada/Released.

The 627th Hospital Center from Ft. Carson, Colorado, was deployed to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington in support of medical efforts in the Seattle area. The 627th has the ability to provide up to 248 beds. The 531st Hospital Center from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and the 9th Hospital Center from Ft. Hood, Texas, have both deployed to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, in support of medical efforts in the New York City area. The 531st has the ability to provide up to 148 beds, while the 9th has the ability to provide 136 beds.


In addition to personnel deployed with the hospital ships and field hospitals, USNORTHCOM is providing military personnel to support in a variety of other capacities.

A 450-person Navy Medical Unit from Jacksonville, Florida, has been put on “Prepare to Deploy” orders, and will soon deploy to Texas and New Orleans to expand the medical capabilities in those states.

Three DOD installations have been approved to support FEMA as Base Support Installations, providing the agency with staging and storage areas for response operations. The approved installations are Beale Air Force Base, California; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Dual-Status Commanders (DCS), Title 10 deputies, and Joint Enabling Capability (JEC) teams have been activated to Washington, New York, and California. A DSC gives a state National Guard unit the ability to command both State National Guard members as well as active-duty military members to better allocate military resources across a wide response area. Title 10 deputies and JEC teams work for the DCS and support the active-duty efforts of the DSC team.

Defense Coordinating Officers (DCO) have also been activated across all ten FEMA regions. DCOs serve as FEMA’s single point of contact for DOD support. They liaise between FEMA and USNORTHCOM to assist in the flow of relief efforts to the most affected areas.

By USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

Share This