DNG deployment 3

Delaware Air National Guard personnel boarding a C-130H 'Hercules' transport for their deployment to Southwest Asia in 2018

How do you prepare for a response to the coronavirus pandemic when you don't know what that response will be?

That is what faces Delaware's citizen soldiers, members of the Delaware National Guard.

The guard has devoted personnel to interact with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency as well as the National Guard Bureau in Virginia. Its members may be called into duty in Delaware, or in other states.

"We continue to communicate our readiness and to make sure internally that we have the personnel and staff deployed to provide any mission support as requested," Delaware National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Joe Cooke said.

An important part of the guard's readiness is getting together regularly. Members take part in drills, planning sessions, training and flights - now with social distancing in mind, if such gatherings happen.

"In order for us to provide support for the citizens of Delaware, we have to make sure that we are capable of being able to respond. When we have a pandemic of this type, it can have impacts across the board," Cooke said. "We make sure that we are mission capable, that we are staffed but we are staffed with the right spacing - whether it's space in time or space in distance - it allows us to still be responsive and meet missions as requested."

Governor John Carney said on Tuesday's edition of WDEL's Rick Jensen Show on WDEL that the Guard could be involved in opening a mobile hospital.

"The National Guard is on alert to stand up a mobile hospital if need be, if we run out of rooms and space in our hospital, to take some of the folks that are less critically ill out of the hospitals so we could treat those who are more critically ill and need the ICU expertise," Carney said.

The governor added that he did not view the guard's future role as enforcing any emergency order that Delawareans remain in their homes.

Guard families are used to disruption and having to make sudden adjustments. Cooke said the guard's concern for them does not waver.

"We recognize that by keeping those families stable and providing those support services, it allows those service members to continue to drive on without worry."