Virginia National Guard helping fight COVID-19

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National GuardApril 30, 2020

Virginia National Guard helping fight COVID-19
Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen collect samples for COVID-19 testing of staff members at a long-term care facility on April 28, 2020. VNG support provides additional capacity to localities through the Virginia Department of Health to get more people properly tested, and they are also delivering the samples for evaluation. VNG personnel are also delivering personal protective equipment, conducting training on the proper use of PPE, and conducting N-95 respirator mask fit testing. During domestic operations, the VNG receives mission taskings from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and can't respond to direct requests for assistance. Localities looking for VNG support should contact VDEM and make a request. (Photo Credit: Cotton Puryear) VIEW ORIGINAL

RICHMOND, Va. – More than 530 members of the Virginia National Guard are supporting COVID-19 response efforts, including testing for the coronavirus, demonstrating how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) and distributing food and medical supplies.

VNG Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force are supporting planning teams and assisting with logistics in multiple Virginia Department of Emergency Management regions.

“I am extremely proud of the great work from our personnel supporting Virginia’s COVID-19 response, and I know we are putting their skills, experience and knowledge to good work where it is making a difference,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia.

“We are now posturing forces to be able to provide additional capabilities to help our fellow Virginians, and we will continue to work with our state agency partners to make sure any support we can provide will be ready when it is needed,” he said.

Virginia’s emergency declaration on March 12 activated the VNG to support COVID-19 response operations. Guard members immediately began assisting with operations, logistics and medical planning with the Virginia Emergency Support Team and in multiple VDEM regions across the state. Those planning efforts continue.

VNG Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package were trained to teach the proper employment of PPE and how to take samples for COVID-19 tests.

“I signed up for the National Guard to fight for my country, but in the Guard, you can fight for your country and also make a difference in your own community,” said Sgt. Kenneth Wilson. “ ... It’s knowing you contributed to society and that what you did made a difference to help save lives.”

A warehouse is serving as a hub for statewide distribution of medical gowns and coveralls, bottled water, cots, meals ready to eat, hand sanitizer and N-95 respirator masks.

“As a team, we’ve just had to come together and had to put a lot of resources, expertise and talent together to figure out who’s better at what, and what ideas can we bring to the table to make this work,” said Wilson. “We have a team of Soldiers who were overseeing incoming shipments, taking accountability of the incoming materials, inputting it into the database and placing them into the warehouse in time to ship.”

The VNG established three “strike teams,” in the east, west and central areas of Virginia. These units are staffed and equipped to help load supplies and transport them where they need to go.

“As is the case in everything we do, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our missions without the support of our families, employers and communities,” Williams said. “Now, more than ever, we all need to come together and work as a team, and the support of our loved ones and the patience and flexibility from employers is absolutely critical. I thank them all for the important contributions they are making.”

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