Afghanistan Veteran Named as Pentagon's 'COVID-19 Coordinator'

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Rep. Max Rose during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - This Sept. 18, 2019 file photo shows House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism Co-Chairman Rep. Max Rose during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Afghanistan veteran and former Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y. -- the Pentagon's new "COVID-19 coordinator -- joined Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last Friday for their first meeting with the service chiefs and combatant commanders on efforts to control the pandemic.

Rose's appointment to the newly created post of "Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense -- Senior Advisor, COVID" or "COVID-19 coordinator" surfaced in a long list of those named by the Biden administration to join Austin's team, first reported by Defense One.

Shortly after arriving at the Pentagon on Friday, Austin met with his senior staff, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, the acting service secretaries, the service chiefs and the combatant commanders, according to a Defense Department release.

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Rose was commissioned in the Army in 2010 and received a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device hit the Stryker combat vehicle he was in while serving with the 1st Armored Division in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in 2013. He now serves as a captain in the Army National Guard.

In March 2020, while serving in Congress, Rose was called up for Guard duty to aid New York City's response to the pandemic. He worked to convert a Staten Island psychiatric center into an emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Rose, representing a Staten Island district including a part of south Brooklyn, served one term in Congress before losing reelection in November. Before his surprise appointment to the Pentagon was announced, Rose was in the process of filing papers to run in the crowded Democratic primary field for the nomination to succeed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

There was no immediate guidance from the Defense Department on the role of the COVID-19 coordinator, but the 198-page "National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness" issued by the Biden administration last week stresses coordination between the DoD and other agencies in setting up community vaccination centers in all 50 states.

The strategy states that the DoD "will bring its logistical expertise and staff to bear, with the Federal Emergency Management [Agency] in managing setup and operations" of the community centers.

"These sites will mobilize thousands of clinical and non-clinical staff and contractors -- including federal medics, Department of Agriculture staff, Department of Veterans Affairs staff, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers and DOD personnel -- who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state, territorial, Tribal, and local teams" in setting up the centers, the strategy adds.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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