SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Army National Guard members assisting the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services have stretched their humanitarian roles of support since being activated for almost two weeks in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.This element’s initial mission was boxing, palletizing and warehousing food as directed by civilian staff. But now a group from the 233rd Engineer Detachment, 340th Brigade Support Battalion, 115th Regional Support Group has upped its responsibilities. About a half-dozen Soldiers will serve as truck drivers, operating company vehicles to bring food out to the public.“That’s what we’re looking at now. We’ve gotten more (civilian) volunteers and now we can move into a new role for the National Guard, which is just as important,” said Sandra Yahya, Sacramento Food Bank warehouse and inventory manager. “There’s a program we call Direct Distribution which is basically giving our products to the people. The Soldiers will be in direct operation with our clients. If not for the National Guard’s help, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”Sacramento Food Bank is the first facility Cal Guardsmen assisted after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call-up of his reserve force, and now Cal Guard Soldiers and Airmen provide assistance at nearly a dozen food banks throughout the state.“We’ve gotten an increase in volunteers the last few weeks, but many are still sheltered in place and can’t come in,” added Yahya. “So we’re going to utilize the National Guard where we can. We can put volunteers to where they were before and move the Soldiers to where we need more help.”Yahya explained that Soldiers were first computer-tested academically online. They take a series of tests after first screened for driver classifications. After confirming possessing Class-A or -B motor vehicle licenses, the Soldiers rode with food bank drivers and observed routes and drop-off-pick-up locations. This had been done for several days. Guardsmen are on the road by themselves, committing to the humanitarian assistance.“First they asked of anyone has any (truck) driving experience and if they had a certain type of license. I raised my hand, said my family owns a trucking company,” said U.S. Army Spc. Dylan Ney, 223rd specialist. “I said this is no big deal compared to what we usually drive.”The Cal Guardsmen normally support the food bank “behind the scenes,” where they’re in the warehouse’s vital operations area. Their new responsibility puts them visibly interacting with the Northern California community. Sacramento Food Banks serves up to 150,000 recipients per month and regularly associates with more than 200 vendors and organizations.“They needed extra drivers. There are a lot of supplies coming in that need to be taken out to the community,” Ney said. “It’s important to me because I have the experience. I know how to drive. If they need anything to go out, I can accomplish that mission and get it done for them.”To date, California Guardsmen have boxed more than 1.5 million meals totaled from all food bank operations. Nearly two dozen Guardsmen have been assigned to Sacramento Food Bank.For more National Guard news: http://www.nationalguard.mil/National Guard Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheNationalGuard/National Guard Twitter: https://twitter.com/usnationalguardNational Guard COVID-19 Response: https://www.nationalguard.mil/coronavirus/Coronavirus (COVID-19): https://www.coronavirus.gov/COVID-19 Response: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalguard/albums/72157713483827538