April 4, 2020

THESE NATIONAL GUARD MEMBERS ALSO SERVE IN CONGRESS. NOW THEY’RE FIGHTING COVID-19

Max Rose will be setting up field hospitals. Michael Waltz helped run a testing site in an empty parking lot. They’re among those facing the coronavirus pandemic with a distinctive job title: They’re members of Congress, but they also serve in the National Guard.

With Congress out for an extended recess until at least April 20, lawmakers are turning to work in their districts, and for some that includes preparing to deploy. Eight current House members are soldiers or airmen in the National Guard, and two so far have put on their uniforms to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Rose announced he would deploy Wednesday with his unit in New York. The Democrat, who represents Staten Island and a portion of Brooklyn, will act as an operations officer in his home city, where emergency rooms are overflowing. That means he could find himself crisscrossing his own 11th District, helping the same people who voted him into office (and the people who didn’t).

This time, it will be a different kind of campaign. “You won’t be hearing from me nearly as much because I’ll be activated in the military,” he said in a video message posted on Twitter. His duties will include working to “build up field hospitals and increase beds,” according to Rose’s communications director, Jonas Edwards-Jenks. “Everything is so day-to-day right now so he will be going and doing whatever is needed.” While the length of the mission is “still TBD,” he’s expecting it to last at least “for the coming weeks.” 

Meanwhile, a colleague across the aisle took on a shorter assignment. Waltz was on hand at FedEx Field on Tuesday to support a newly opened coronavirus testing site in the stadium’s parking lot, where patients can drive up to get a swab. Guardsmen had been there for days, erecting tents weighed down by sandbags, but Waltz was on temporary duty. A colonel on the planning staff (he was just promoted from lieutenant colonel last month), the Republican has a background in special forces and serves with the Maryland National Guard instead of in his home state of Florida. “I am going on when it makes sense, on temporary orders, to help with planning, to help with coordination,” he said in a phone interview. “Right now I’m doing that back and forth.”

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