NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee National Guard has been responding to the call for help to combat the COVID-19 pandemic expanding their presence in hospitals in less than two weeks.

32 medical centers have guardsmen on duty, up from 20 earlier this month.

Soldiers have been assisting on the frontlines since the pandemic began.

“Our soldiers are citizen soldiers they live within the communities that they’re serving, so we utilize our medical personnel that are not already working in hospitals,” said Lt. Col. Keith Evans, the Deputy Commander for Clinical Services in the Tennessee National Guard’s Medical Command.

So far, the Guard has administered over 1.3 million vaccinations. Over 930,000 tests have been conducted by guardsmen and they have come in contact with almost 300,000 Tennesseans in hospitals across the state.

“Between the Governor’s office, the state Department of Health, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard, we have been able to come together as a giant cohesive unit and work together to better the citizens and respond to the need of our citizens,” Evans said.

While the state determines needs – whether that’s vaccinations, testing, or augmenting hospital capacity – the Guard uses a “lift and shift” method to be able to timely respond to needs.

“As a hospital number starts to decrease our personnel is no longer needed, we will move them to a site that is needed, and we give them 24 to 48 hours to shift from one side of the state to the next or wherever,” Evans said.

Both non-clinical and clinical National Guardsmen are currently responding to the needs of Tennesseans.

“When we take on these missions, we don’t take them on lightly, because we know these are our fellow citizens ,and you know hometown people that we are taking care of,” he continued, “So, there’s an immense pride in being able to do that and take care of your own.”

Hospital or county requests for National Guard assistance are for two week periods and approved through the Tennessee Department of Health.