BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday that he is activating the National Guard to help with a potential staffing shortage at the Department of Correction (DOC) ahead of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Up to 250 members of the Massachusetts National Guard will be assisting as a contingency measure in anticipation of possible staffing shortages at DOC. Baker’s executive order will begin with training Guard members this week with transportation and exterior security functions, if necessary.

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Executive Department employees may lead to the possibility of staffing shortages at the DOC, as proof is due by October 17. Activating the Guard immediately will ensure readiness of job training in the event of a reduction in DOC staffing levels. The DOC is preparing for the return of retired correction officers if needed.

There are a total of 15 Department of Correction facilities in Massachusetts, none of them are located in western Massachusetts.

“DOC staff has performed remarkably throughout the pandemic. As we continue to navigate an unprecedented public health crisis, well-being and safety remain our priority, and we appreciate the large number of staff who have submitted their vaccination attestation forms ahead of the deadline,” said DOC Commissioner Carol Mici. “We are grateful for the Guard’s assistance in supporting the DOC’s mission as we continue to encourage our staff to comply with the vaccination mandate.”

The Guard members will potentially assist with providing transportation to inmates with a correctional officer accompanying them. The National Guard will not involve direct contact with inmates.