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NEWS | Sept. 14, 2020

U.S. Army North supports Texas agencies during pandemic, beyond

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As COVID-19 cases began to surge this summer in Texas, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, joining forces with the Texas Military Department and Texas Division of Emergency Management to combat the disease.  

Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Military Department announced in July the formation of Joint Task Force Texas, a partnership between the Texas National Guard, active duty military personnel and U.S. Army Reservists, including forces from U.S. Army North, to strengthen COVID-19 response efforts in Texas.  

More than 1,200 service members comprise the task force, including members of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, supporting hospitals in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley. 

"This formal partnership will help ensure a more effective collaboration among state and federal resources, and allows us to better meet the needs of Texans across the state," Abbott said in a July press release.  

Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris also appreciates the help from federal partners, who have provided much-needed support and relief to civilian health care workers who have been working tirelessly to care for the people Texas.  

"The units of the Texas Military Department are not authorized with enough medical professionals to meet the current demand,” she said. “We are proud to work with our brothers and sisters in arms from the active duty and Reserve forces to help our fellow Texans in need.”  

Texas Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer is the dual-status commander of Joint Task Force Texas and the commander of both Texas National Guard and federal service members. 

“My position allows for collaboration between orders directed by Governor Abbott and those by the president,” Suelzer said. “It is an incredible experience to work with our service members in this historic event and I am proud to see how effortlessly our forces have integrated with each other.”  

Texas Air National Guard Maj. Tanya Island, assigned to the 147th Medical Group, serves as the Joint Task Force Lone Star surgeon, positioning personnel and resources across the state. 

“This operation really opened my eyes as to how critical a role the National Guard has in this response,” she said, noting that since COVID-19 began, Joint Task Force Texas has coordinated more than 320,000 tests. 

Another partner U.S. Army North has supported in Texas during COVID-19 has been the Texas Division of Emergency Management, or TDEM, which manages the state’s all-hazards emergency management plan.  

The TDEM works closely with local jurisdictions, state agencies, and federal partners in ensuring Texas is ready and becomes more resilient for future disasters. 

“The support U.S. Army North provided directly benefited Texans across the state,” said TDEM’s chief, W. Nim Kidd. “The Texas Division of Emergency Management appreciates the support and collaboration of our military partners who answer the call no matter the hazard.” 

Providing that support to civil authorities in times of crisis is a key tenant of U.S. Army North’s mission, now and in the future.  

“We are committed to assisting those in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-America response to COVID-19,” said Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, U.S. Army North commander. “At the same time, we remain flexible and capable of providing other defense support to civil authorities as necessary.”