coronavirus national guard

New Hampshire National Guardsmen Command Sgt. Maj. Lore Ford of Concord, left, Sgt. Sawyer Lyman of Canaan and Spc. Cali Dwyer of Alton prepare food boxes at the New Hampshire Food Bank in Manchester.

Gov. Chris Sununu is asking President Trump to extend the federal authorization for New Hampshire’s National Guard to continue its fight against COVID-19 through September.

In a letter Friday, Sununu noted that the Trump administration had previously authorized the activation of 1,000 members of the Guard through June 24. However, he wrote, “The mission requirements for the guardsmen we have activated will continue beyond the current expiration date.”

“These personnel are critical in our response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” he said.

There are currently more than 650 guardsmen serving in the fight against the pandemic here. Sununu requested the extension through Sept. 30 for up to 450 members of the New Hampshire Army and Air National Guard.

The administration’s decision to allow the federal deployment of National Guard troops to expire on June 24 has come under criticism. That’s because it would mean the current deployment would last only 89 days, one day short of the 90-day activation that allows those troops to qualify for additional retirement and educational benefits.

Last week, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., introduced the National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act, which would extend orders for National Guard troops past the June 24 expiration date. Duckworth, a retired lieutenant colonel, deployed in 2004 as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot with the Illinois National Guard.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., co-sponsored the bill, noting that New Hampshire National Guardsmen have been providing “urgently needed support on the front lines of our COVID-19 response efforts.”

Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., introduced a version of the measure in the House on Friday.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to cut these COVID-19 deployments just short of the 90-day benchmark to receive benefits under the GI Bill is misguided and downright unpatriotic,” Kuster said in a statement. “This move to deliberately prevent people from qualifying for these benefits will also bring an early end to the critical support that the National Guard is providing to communities in every state across the nation.”

In his letter, Sununu told Trump he will continue to reassess the state’s needs on a monthly basis, “and inform you when support of the current mission critical requirements provided by the New Hampshire National Guard are no longer needed.”

Friday, May 29, 2020