Army Officials Press Briefing on the Army's role in the Defense Department's COVID-19 efforts

By Audricia HarrisApril 30, 2020

Presenters: Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy; Army Chief of Staff General James C. McConville; Lieutenant General Darryl Williams, Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston


STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Army Colonel Sunset Belinsky. Today, we have for you the secretary of the Army, the chief of staff of the Army, sergeant major of the Army, superintendent from West Point and the Army's Ready and Resilient director. This will be a 30-minute conference. We'll take two from the phone, two in the room.

With that, Secretary McCarthy?

SECRETARY OF THE ARMY RYAN D. MCCARTHY: Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to start out this morning by talking about a missing soldier, Private First Class Vanessa Guillen, in hopes of increasing the public's awareness and assistance in finding her.

Private First Class Guillen went missing on 22 April from Ford Hood, Texas. In concert with local law enforcement efforts, the Army will continue aggressively searching for her. Our hearts go out to her family, and we will not stop looking for her until we find her.

Sergeant Major Grinston and I just returned from a great visit to Fort Benning, Georgia yesterday. We were able to observe basic training operations, which have resumed with risk mitigation measures in place to protect our newest recruits from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

We have moved thousands of soldiers over the last two months, and have been able to keep soldiers healthy and trained very effectively. What SMA and I witnessed encouraged us, as the Army pushes to return to collective training.

As we balance global operations, combating COVID-19 on the home front, the Army continues to need a manned and ready force. We will continue to take the necessary precautions to protect the force, and will enable commanders the flexibility to make conditions-based decisions.

The Army has proposed a risk mitigation framework to the secretary of defense so that we can safely return to training operations, and begin our summer move cycles. We are working closely with OSD and other services in this task, and are close to finalizing the framework.

The virus did not impact the country uniformly, so we need to tailor our approach to the reopening. By developing Army-wide standards and protocols now, the Army will help ensure our senior mission commanders are ready once DOD and local movement restrictions ease.

Just as we have taken extra measures with our basic training recruits to ensure they safely arrive into our formations, we are doing the same with the flow of future officers. For example, the United States Military Academy is returning to school in order to conduct the administrative steps, physicals necessary for particular branches and clearance requirements so that they are able to report to their next duty station.

We will conduct the ceremony, much like the Air Force Academy did on April 18th, in honoring completion of their 47-month journey to enter the Army ranks, including at this unprecedented time for our country.

So in sum, West Point, OCS and ROTC graduating cadets are moving towards resuming operations this summer, and training with extra measures of precaution and safety are being put in place.

Just a few moments ago, DOD released their annual report on sexual assault. Army leadership is troubles by the trends, and we must do better. Sexual assault and sexual harassment tears at the fabric of our organization. There is no room for it in our formation. Every member of the force matters and is needed to protect and defend the nation.

The effort and performance of our people never ceases to amaze me, and we are all incredibly proud of them.

Chief, I'll hand it to you for your opening comments.

GENERAL JAMES C. MCCONVILLE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And good afternoon. America's army is adaptive and ready. We continue to provide medical support across the nation, and we have incorporated new measures across our installations in order to operate safely.

As of this morning, we have 2,751 total cases of COVID-19. That includes 1,646 military personnel across all three components. And out of the military cases, 524 have recovered.

We still have 14 of our 15 Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces employed. Six teams are distributed throughout New York City hospitals and the Javits Center. Three remain assigned in New Jersey, and are operating at the Edison Convention Center, the Atlantic City alternate care facility, and providing augmentation at three hospitals: Newark University, Salem and JFK.

We have one in Stamford, Connecticut, operating out of the Bennett Medical Center, and we have two task forces in Massachusetts, one in Boston and one in Tewksbury.

We have a team in Detroit, Michigan at the TCF Center. We also have a team in Pennsylvania, supporting five different hospitals and one alternate health care facility. We still have one Medical Task Force that remains unassigned and is prepared to support.

Changes are in place at our initial military training installations, as the secretary said. Soldiers are conducting training with screening, testing, control monitoring and tactical dispersion measures in place. We are creating the safety bubbles that will protect the force while they conduct training.

Last week, we shipped over 800 recruits to our Army Training Centers, getting them through these new procedures so they can get trained in a protected environment.

We are also taking a hard look at how we get back to collective training, both at home station and our combat training centers. Through my visit to Fort Polk yesterday, where our Joint Readiness Training Center is, I was able to go over the measures that are being put in place to safely receive units for their major collective training exercises.

Like we have done in our initial military training installations, we are applying screening, testing, controlled monitoring and tactical dispersion to create safety bubbles so units can train and operate in a protected environment. Getting back to collective training is crucial, but we need to make sure we have the right measures in place first.

Commanders at all echelons are assessing risk on a daily basis, and putting the right procedures in place to fit that population and that installation. It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. We're looking at the long game. We're not waiting for COVID-19 to go away, we're putting the right procedures in place so we can protect the force while we train and operate under a COVID-19 environment.

We have extraordinary men and women serving in our Army. We must protect the force so the force can protect the nation. We remain Army Strong, and we will prevail.

STAFF: Let's go to the phone lines. Lita please, one question, one follow-up. Thank you.

Q: Hi, thank you. It's Lita Baldor with A.P. (inaudible) this.

Mr. Secretary, why do you believe it's necessary to have the graduation at West Point and bring all the students (inaudible)? Other colleges around the country have obviously -- and high schools (inaudible) canceled theirs.

Will all cadets be tested (inaudible) this? Will those who are -- who decide they don't want to go and not risk exposure be disciplined? And is it true that there were as many as 60 percent of the cadets (inaudible) the have the virus (inaudible)?

Thank you.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Lita, I'll -- I'll -- I'll make some comments and I think we should bring General Williams up to the microphone and he can answer much of the details related to the follow on there.

We have to bring the cadets back to West Point to begin the process of the -- the physicals they need to take, all of the -- all of the -- the clearance procedures to clear barracks, get their personal items.

So they have to come back to the Academy and we do want to conduct a ceremony to celebrate the -- that four year development process, a hard-earned -- from that hard-earned experience. So we definitely want to have a small, safe graduation ceremony for them but they have to come back to the Academy to begin the process to become second lieutenants and to report to their first assignments.

General Williams?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL DARRYL WILLIAMS: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for the question.

The Secretary and Chief laid it out pretty clear that we have to be able to screen tests and conduct this operation under controlled monitoring, though there's a number of tasks they have to do before I turn them over to the Army.

They have to be medically ready to -- to join the Army so it's a series of medical tasks -- essential tasks that can only be done at the United States Military Academy, as well as get their stuff. They left March 6th on spring break, they didn't have an opportunity to get any of their gear so they have to secure their gear, get their cars, but those were lesser in priority in terms of the readiness they have to achieve before I turn them over to the Army.

We'll do it safely. And for all of the parents and cadets that are out there watching right now, we're going to take care of them. We're going to do a reverse staging and (inaudible) integration. I know this group is familiar with that term.

The cadets will come into Camp Buckner. I'll set up essentially a staging base out there, cadets will come in there, we're going to route where they're going to come into. 60 to 70 percent of the corps will return by POV. We will encourage the others one by their privately owned vehicle. They'll come -- some will come back through other means but we're working on that, as well.

So they'll come back, they'll stage for one day, we'll screen them, test them, as the Chief talked about, and then we'll onward move them onto West Point. While they're at West Point, they'll be segregated the entire time. You'll come back in five -- they'll come back in five cohorts. No cohort will intermingle while they're there for those 14 days.

They'll eat separately, they'll live separately and we'll make sure that they are ready to join our great United States Army.

STAFF: Thank you. We'll go to Courtney, please.

Q: Hi. Thanks.

So more on that. It -- it was -- can you explain when the decision was made to hold the graduation ceremony on June 13th? And it -- it -- can you explain a little bit more about the process? You say they'll -- they will be tested. I just want to be clear, when you say that, you mean they will actually receive a coronavirus test before they move onto living at West Point in one of these five corps?

And then what's happening -- the -- the ones who are coming back, is it only the seniors who are getting ready to graduate or is the entire Academy coming back?

Thank you.

GEN. WILLIAMS: Yes, ma'am.

Essentially, it is the first -- these -- the class of 2020. They all will be tested. The Army's been very generous. One of the first places that I asked for the ability to test -- so I had the ability to test at West Point. The safety bubble that the Chief talked about, we've created that.

So this isn't a cold start. We've had this conversation with our -- with our cadets at their homes right now. So we track their mental health, their physical health right now. I know exactly where all of the cadets are and how they're doing.

And so we've set the conditions at Keller -- we've converted Keller into the ability if something were to happen more tragically -- more -- you know, someone were to get COVID positivity -- COVID positive and need more medical health, they'll be able to get that at Keller. Our medical professionals, Surgeon General, the Army staff did a great job providing -- so I have Genex 16's machines, we just got them last week and we have the ability to test and make sure that safety bubble is there for the cadets.

SEC. MCCARTHY: And over a month ago, Courtney we had sent the revised concept with the date and how we could conduct these procedures forward to the Secretary of Defense and then on to the White House. But the president had accepted the invitation to speak at the academy, back -- I believe it was in February.

We were looking at specifically of how the trend was in the state of New York and then ultimately was the curve flattening and how were we in a place with much reduced risk of bringing them back to the academy.

STAFF: (Inaudible) in the room, please.

Q: So you -- for Secretary McCarthy, when you say -- you set the date for June 13th, over a month ago, that's fair to say. And then I just want to be clear, General, you -- I mean you -- it's only the class of 2020 coming back, so the other cadets in the other three classes are all going to stay home and distance learn until some future time, right?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: That's correct -- and I'll save Darryl walking up to the podium. Only the seniors are coming back for graduation; the rest of the cadets are not.

STAFF: Okay, and Tom in the room, please?

Reporter: General (inaudible), if you could address this.


Q: If you could answer the question about are the cadets required to come back? And if one or more decide not to come back because of the COVID-19 concerns, will the cadets be disciplined, number one? And number two, let's say a family member of a cadet has tested positive, the family's quarantined -- do you want that cadet to come back to West Point and possibly infect others?

GEN. WILLIAMS: The cadets have to come back, as I mentioned earlier to complete the medical readiness task. I -- before I turn them over to the chief and the secretary, they must come back to do this. I am competent that our measures we're taking to offload -- offset at Buckner and our ability to quarantine. They're going to follow all the data we've been doing with it -- that's I've been following very closely the regional -- all the communities neighboring West Point, but also what's going on in New York City. I'm confident that our procedures are going to take care of that -- quarantine, social isolation, wearing masks that's the way they're going to live for 14 days to ensure that they don't have COVID.

Q: Again, disciplinary action if a cadet decides not to come back?

GEN. WILLIAMS: We treat all of our cadets with dignity and respect and that's a commander's decision. I've been making decisions like that for all my career and will address that. But I don't anticipate -- I talked to -- I cold called five cadets yesterday, they've very excited about coming back.

Q: Addressing the question, sir. If a cadet decides not to come back --

GEN. WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

Q: -- will that cadet be disciplined?

GEN. WILLIAMS: Sir, I'm Commander. And we will take each case separately case by case. I'm not going to make a blanket statement like that in terms of discipline. I am confident that our cadets will come back and graduate. As the Secretary said, this is a culmination of a 47 month experience, they've very excited about it -- we're excited for them to do this graduation and that's what commanders -- that's what we've been doing since I've been a Commander in the Army. We'll make it case by case, sir.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Can I just add to that, because I think it's really important is -- you know, we're going to live in this COVID-19 environment for a while. You know, the secretary and I have been to initial military training. We have soldiers and leaders training soldiers throughout the Army.

I was down at the Joint Readiness Training Center yesterday because we're going to have to train and these extraordinary young men and women that graduated from West Point, they're going to be leaders, and they're going to have an opportunity to lead these extraordinary young men and women that are coming in to the Army, and they're going to have to work their way through this and that's why we're putting the safety procedures in place so we can do this safely.

STAFF: Go ahead, Ryan

Q: And one quick follow-up on graduation, and apologies. The medical prep that they would have to do to come back right away, that -- in theory, though, could fairly easily be done elsewhere, right? I mean, if needed? I just -- I'm trying -- I know you said they have to come back for that purpose.

GEN. WILLIAMS: Well, the --

Q: If you had to in extremis that -- that in -- medical processing could be done at a MEP station or somewhere else.

GEN. WILLIAMS: No, sir, because they have to move through that corridor, if you will, before they get to West Point. I want to insure when they get at West Point, right, we've set the conditions as the chief and the secretary said, we created a safety bubble there.

We're very confident in the great medical support we have there. Very confident in the -- and we've all -- you know we've been living in this. You know the cadets are not there right now but there's a community right now that's at West Point and we're operating in this way.

We are quarantining folks, we haven't isolated anybody but I've set up quarantine and isolation facilities at West Point. We have all the medical help we need; we have all the testing we need. So I'm very comfortable that they'll be able to come back. But they need to do that before they come on to West Point.

So having it done at their home station or wherever they are right now, I would -- they need to do it while they're at West Point.

Q: And then just -- I'm sorry -- not on the graduation or more broadly just on a different topic. You went to virtual recruiting a while ago. What's the impact on -- have you seen -- do you have enough data now to see if there's been a huge drop off, any impact in terms of number of folks signing up.

And then related to that are you still pausing shipping from areas that are hard hit by coronavirus like New York and things like that. Are you still not shipping people to initial military training from those areas.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: I'll take -- on the recruiting side, we were watching it closely. I mean there is a little -- a slight dip but so far recruiters think that they're going to be able to make that up.

I think the country is looking at where we're at right now and the procedures that -- that we're putting in place. And I -- and I again, think we're committed to making -- you know as things change and the situation changes we're taking the proper procedures.

Think of the hot zones, and I think the superintendent was talking about this -- every single person we're going to look at as an individual. So if you're sitting in a hot zone and your family has it and you're quarantined, well then, that's not the type of person we probably want to bring through and we'd take the appropriate risk measures.

So when we look at the shipping it's the same type thing. We don't necessarily want to bring someone in from what we would call a hot zone. Now having said that, you know, there's -- you really have to get down to the specifics.

And I was down at the joint readiness training center, which quite frankly is in Louisiana, and it's closer to a place that's been hot. But they are not hot right now. Not hot at all.

And so every single situation is different and one size is not going to fit all. And I think that's what we expect our commanders to do is take a look at, you know, if someone was not able to come back, if someone wasn't able to ship, how would we take care of those soldiers and that's what we intend to do.

STAFF: We'll go back to the phone lines please. Idrees?.

Q: Thank you.

Quick question on the vaccines, if you could provide an update on that and sort of what timeline are you now looking at and what stage are you at currently. Thank you.

SEC. MCCARTHY: The Chief and I got an update on that this morning from the Medical Research and Develop Command Scientific team. So if you look at the entire universe today, there was about 150 vaccines candidates world wide.

But over half of them do not have the maturity to really be in the pursuit right now. What they described was there's about 10 or 15 globally that are in various stages of maturity from primates to small animals, leading up to clinical human trials.

There are some that entering human clinical trials this summer and in the early fall. And what -- what the -- what the Department of Defense does in our business model, we have a candidate that's within that top 15.

But with -- we can also do because of the nature of our lab network, we have a very unique capability where they can test the aerosol where you can see if someone sneezes or coughs and they have their -- you know it gets into the air, how much it travels. The -- many major corporations work with us in their development model.

So what we do is we can double down and invest in the fastest horse, if you will, in this 15-candidate race. And then that compresses the timeframe that will ultimately get you to the answer and bring a vaccine to life. So you'll hear ranges of how fast it can go.

What's exciting about this is that there are vaccine candidates in human trials right now. Much of that work is to be done in the fall. And if you're successful, then it's the speed at which you can scale with large pharmaceutical firms around the world.

But you see a lot of energy in the news with GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi entering joint ventures. There are a lot of world-class companies that you can see are posturing towards scaling one of these lead candidates.

So it's moving faster than probably any point in history because of the extraordinary collaboration that's going on today, very exciting news but a lot of work in front of us.

Chief, anything else?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: I just think that you can -- you can save time by taking risks. You know, you talk about manufacturing and things like that as -- you know, you may get ready to produce something and that horse may not get to the final race. And that may not be the most efficient use of money. But by taking risks, you can really move things very, very quickly. And that's what they're doing.

Everyone is moving very, very quick at the speed of relevance because everyone wants to -- you know, I don't want to say win this race, but they want to get to the end.

And our scientists and all the scientists around the world are working very, very closely. And it's not the normal linear process. That's what they're explaining tomorrow.

They're -- they're coming from all directions. They're working together. Some have strengths in testing, some have strengths in manufacturing. Some have strengths in -- the vaccination that they had has already been through trials for something else, and they can modify that and move it. And all of those are coming together because everyone wants to beat the virus.

STAFF: We'll go to (indaudible), on the phone please.

Q: Sorry.

STAFF: Idrees, if you have a follow-up, go ahead.

Q: Yes, just a quick follow-up. The administration has talked about Operation Warp Speed, which is sort of speeding up the vaccine process, are you looking at speeding up the process at Walter Reed?

SEC. MCCARTHY: Many of the scientists that the Chief and I got briefed on this morning -- they are supporting the president's task force.

You know, if you really look at the -- the alumni of the Medical Research and Development Command that Dr. Birx had started there, Dr. Fauci, all our scientists -- Dr. Majarad Dr. Nelson Michael -- they all worked together over the years. So we -- U.S. Army is central to the support of this effort.

STAFF: And now (inaudible) Nothing heard. We'll go to Lucas in the room.

Q: Gentlemen, what do you tell people who say this is just nuts? Bringing 1,000 cadets from all 50 states back to New York, an hour away from the hottest of the hot spots going -- to a graduation that could just be done virtually, like the Naval Academy.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Lucas, we are -- as we talked repeatedly here, that we have to bring the cadets back to start the process to get them to their initial duty assignments. So there are tasks they have to perform at the Academy.

But what I would tell anyone is that the U.S. Army is putting the procedures in place to move soldiers from every corner on the planet, whether it's to basic training or it's deployments, we are finding our way to lead through this. I think the United States military academy is but one example.

There are thousands of young men and women over the last couple months that have got on buses, and on trains, and on airplanes and they've gone from every corner of this country to our installations. And we're to continue to do that. To the Chief's point, it may be a while until we get a vaccine.

GEN MCCONVILLE Yes, we can't -- we can't telecommute to combat and our troops need to be ready to go. And what we need to do, as leaders, is -- is put the appropriate risk measures in place. And we're going to do that at the United States Military Academy.

And that's why they're getting the screening. That's why they're getting the taste -- testing capability. And they're going to put procedures in place that were using around the Army to continue to train, and we want to create a safety bubble at West Point.

Q: Just a quick follow-up for the sup.

GEN. WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

Q: Is Beast Barracks going to be delayed? And is that also going to be shortened to, like, three weeks?

GEN. WILLIAMS: Sir, Beast Barracks -- so the reception of the Class of 2024, I have not made a decision on the -- on the timing of that right now.

STAFF: (inaudible) Tara in the room, please?

Q: Thank you.

Yesterday, the secretary for personnel readiness suggested that not all the services are going to meet their end-strength goals this year with the pressures of COVID-19. I was wondering what your level of confidence is that you will meet your end-strength goals and your recruiting goals. And then if you could give us any sort of numbers on how many recruits you've been able to sign up since the, you know, stay-at-home orders were given in early March.

SEC. MCCARTHY: We had momentum. We were, I think, how much ahead, Chief?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, we were about -- we were about four -- this year, we were actually, we came out of the blocks very, very quick. I don't know if, Sergeant Major, you want to touch that.


GEN. MCCONVILLE: But we were about four- or five thousand ahead.



SEC. MCCARTHY: So we had margin coming in, yeah.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: So we had margin, and -- and -- and that was on a -- a much higher mission than we actually need. We actually give our -- we -- I don't want to say. We -- we -- with the recruiting commit, we always give them a much higher mission than we actually think we need because we always plan for the worst case, if our attrition was higher, so we don't get to the end of the year and find out that, you know, attrition was much higher than we expected. So we give them a very, very high mission, and as we get through the year and we start to look at it, we get a sense of who's retained -- who's staying or who's going.

And I don't know, Sergeant Major, if you want to talk real quick about who's staying. Why don't you come up and talk real quick about who's staying, and the change in that?

SGT. MAJ. GRINSTON: Yeah, we've -- we've seen a -- an increase in retention, and we're over 100 percent. We met our goals, I want to say April, March, April on our retention goals, and then we had another goal. We -- it's all about the end strength, like the question you're asking is -- so I said, "Okay, can we get 2,000 more quality? The quality is not going to draw drop. Can we get 2,000 more quality soldiers that we're going to ETS in this, you know, four months to stay?"

So two weeks ago we had already had 500. So for the retention, the retention's going well. And then we said, "Well, well that's long-term, but does -- does anybody want to stay?" And then we had 2- to 300 that say, "I want to extend three -- up to three months or to a year." So we're seeing the extensions go well. We're seeing the retention is high.

And -- and from the recruiter's side, I think it's just going to take time. The virtual recruiting is actually going well. But we -- you know, we're -- we're learning as we go through this, and as we ramp up the system like we were at Fort Benning, and the confidence that we have to protect our -- our families and our soldiers, that's going to -- I believe that's going to increase.

What I said yesterday at Fort Benning was this is one of the safest places. We're controlled. It's disciplined. You know, I hear these discussions about, you know, the families in West Point, and I said, "Well, the soldiers are still doing exactly what you just said." And we're going to continue to do that safely, and we were going to protect those soldiers because that's what we do.

Q: And with the -- the end strength numbers and the numbers that have decided to remain, do you think that COVID-19 is the primary factors? Is it, do you think, because of the uncertainty with the economy is -- they'd rather stick -- stay around for a while?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: I -- I think it's all of the above. I think, you know, again, people taking a look at what's like on the outside. They're taking a look at, you know, hey, if -- if -- you know, I've got some great benefits, some -- you know. It -- it's amazing that people even wanted to come back in. We're -- as you know, we're bringing people back into the service. And there's a lot of people out there, when they -- when they take a hard look at it they go, "Well, I have a purpose. I'm really making a difference here," and -- or "I got out and I really miss the fact that I was part of some bigger than myself, and I was on this world -- the world's greatest team, and you know, I want to come back in."

So it's -- for me, it's too early. You know, I'm sitting here. I'd like to give you a number. Hey, we're going to be at, you know, four or whatever, you know, 86 or exactly -- and those type things. We're going to recruit exactly that number. I don't know yet, but I -- I feel very strongly about, you know, the people that are serving and the people that want to come in. And like I said, I was just down at -- at Fort Jackson. I saw the troops down there, and these young men and women that come in the Army, and they're training through the COVID-19 virus. It was very, very impressive.

I don't know if you want to add to that, sir, (inaudible).

SGT. MAJ. GRINSTON: You know, even -- you know, in January and February I think it was, you know, three or four percent unemployment. Our retention rates were well above what we had given the missions for the units. So is it due to COVID-19 or -- or why they're staying? We like to say that the Army's just a great place to work, and we take care of our people. But even when unemployment in December and January and February were at the lowest, we still met our retention goals.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Yeah, when I was in Detroit with General Martin last week we sat with the recruiting battalion commander and the sergeant major, and their numbers are going up because there are soldiers all over Detroit responding and helping the population. And they think there's -- directly attributed to that. And you know, there -- there could be the elements of the economy and other -- others, but it was hearing it from on the ground to -- to see that the numbers are on the uptick; that clearly, there's several of those factors that are related to the increase.

Q: If I may follow up, just one West Point question that we didn't get to. If one of your cadets is coming back from a hot zone, their family lives there or one of their family members has tested positive, is it worth it to bring that cadet back for this, or maybe process them later after graduation?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I -- I think we're going to do it. I'll -- I can defer to Darryl, but I think it's going to be individual. I -- I think what we have to do is every individual is -- is different, and -- and West Point does this all the time. There's, you know -- some -- some will graduate, you know, some will not graduate. Every soldier or cadet is handled as an individual, so we'd -- we'd have to see what the case is. In some case -- cases I -- I -- I feel really comfortable with the procedures we've put in to on our posts.

I mean, if you look at what happened in -- in -- in South Korea or you look at what happened in Italy, that the safest places to be were in the military in those bases. And quite frankly, if you look across the -- the country and a lot of places, we have the -- the -- the ability to provide the medical care, to do the testing and screening that can really safeguard these -- these young men and women that come in the Army.


Q: Just a quick follow-up: Did Governor Cuomo give his blessing to bring the cadets back?

GEN. WILLIAMS: We -- we contacted Governor Cuomo's office and informed them that we were doing that. So I feel comfortable that – but your exacted of your question, did he get his blessing? I don't know, but I talked to his office personally myself and said we were doing this.

STAFF: We'll go to the last question on the phone lines. Eric Schmitt, please? Hearing nothing, Mr. Secretary, I'll turn it over to you for closing comments.

SEC. MCCARTHY: As a reminder to everyone, the Army has executed two major globally-integrated, all-domain, all  COMPO operations in just the last four months. In response to crisis in the Middle East, on January 3rd, the Army helped prosecute the removal of Qasem Soleimani. He was responsible for at least hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqi deaths. As a part of that, a battalion of the Army's Immediate Response Force from the 1st to the 82nd. 2x C-17s loads of soldiers went wheels up; headed to the Middle East within 20 hours of notification. The rest of the brigade was in there within seven days.

So obviously, we remain prepared anywhere, anytime when the country needs us. In this time, we've reordered our global GIF map deployments to meet CENTCOM's CGs needs in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East while mitigating the COVID crisis here at home.

In the homeland, Army North has set the theater across the United States by providing enabling and foundational capabilities that only Army could provide, which includes support of the Army Corps of Engineers.

We've rapidly deployed four active duty field hospitals in New York City and Seattle within days in support of FEMA. We mobilized our reserve medical capabilities, allowing those already in the community to fight to remain by deploying 14 urban augmentation medical task forces to directly support FEMA and HHS in the communities that are in need.

In addition to more than 150,000 soldiers we have across the globe helping protect our country, work with families and our allies and partners, we've also supported the nation's COVID fight -- 33,500 active duty, 37,700 Army National Guard, 4,500 Army Reservists and 1,400 Army Corps of Engineers, military and civilians, all against an invisible threat that we have never expected to fight.

Clearly, we're in very good shape with strategic readiness. I'm very proud of that.

Thanks for your time today.