OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - The Oklahoma National Guard announced that it has activated its Joint Task Force in an effort to support Oklahoma's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Joint Task Force, which is made up of both the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard, is currently laying the groundwork for possible support missions.
“Our Guardsmen are planning ahead for future operations we are anticipating the Governor may request of us through the lead agency - the Oklahoma State Department of Health,” Brig. Gen. Tommy Mancino, executive director of the Oklahoma Military Department and the Oklahoma National Guard assistant adjutant general (Army), said. “This planning will ensure when we execute those missions that they are done in the most efficient, timely and best way possible."
Mancino says that the Joint Task Force is just one part of a larger response by the State of Oklahoma to COVID-19.
“Currently, the governor is making this an all-state response effort. Literally every agency in Oklahoma is contributing to this response,” Mancino said. “The Oklahoma National Guard is in support of the lead agency, the Oklahoma State Department of Health.”
For example, Mancino says soldiers might be called to deliver critically needed medical supplies.
“One of the things I’ve told my Guardsmen is when you're at home to ‘flatten the curve,’ you see a dotted line [on the graph] and that dotted line represents the health care personnel here in Oklahoma, and I’ve told them our number one job is to support that line. We are going to do everything we can to help the real heroes: our health care workers.”
The task force will also make sure the Oklahoma National Guard has the ability to respond to multiple situations, if needed.
“The possibility of having multiple issues in the state at any one time is absolutely something the governor has addressed with the Adjutant General. The Adjutant General is ensuring [him] we are capable of doing more than one thing at once,” Mancino said. “I want to ensure the people of Oklahoma, that should there be a tornado or some other natural disaster, we are prepared to answer that and continue our support of the COVID-19 response.”
Mancino says he is also working to dispell rumors about martial law, lockdowns, and Oklahoma closing its borders, all of which are untrue.
“Let’s have a candid discussion about martial law. Martial law is a thing; it exists within the constitutional powers granted to the Governor, but our Governor has made it very clear we are here to support the people and agencies of Oklahoma,” Mancino said. “There is absolutely no discussion of martial law in Oklahoma. We are hoping everyone pulls together as a community and that we all work together to solve this vital problem we face with this COVID-19 virus.”