A team of Citizen Soldiers continues to work every day behind-the-scenes to ensure critical personal protective equipment (PPE) is received, repackaged, and distributed to entities in need across Wisconsin.
Nearly 25 Soldiers are on duty in a warehouse supporting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services receiving PPE shipments, sorting it, and then getting it to places that need it the most. Wisconsin DHS coordinates PPE distribution across the state that arrives in Wisconsin from a variety of sources.
Their work began last month, and the Soldiers, who largely work in logistics positions in their normal military jobs, continue to work in shifts each day in this effort.
“We are providing protective equipment for those in the state who need it most,” said Spc. Nathan Walsh, an ammunition specialist assigned to Janesville, Wisconsin’s Company A, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion. “This includes law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders. They’re out there, interacting with people every day, so they need the medical equipment that were distributing to them so they can be safe.
“We’re simply providing equipment to people, and making sure people are safe,” he added.
Fellow Company A Soldier Spc. Edgar Mendez, an automated logistical specialist, said he was honored to be a part of the Guard’s response to support the state’s response to COVID-19. Like Walsh, Mendez is working in the warehouse handling PPE shipments.
“A lot of people are taking time out of their own civilian life to help the community,” Mendez said. “They’re making a great impact on the departments that need these medical supplies.”
Supporting operations at the warehouse represents just a small part of the myriad roles the Wisconsin National Guard has fulfilled since the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. Approximately 400 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen are serving on state active duty to support the state.
The Wisconsin National Guard is helping staff two state-run self-isolation facilities – one in Milwaukee and one in Madison as well as a third Milwaukee-run facility. Twelve personnel are staffing each of the state-run sites and providing medical and administrative support at each of those locations while approximately 25 continue work at the Milwaukee-run facility.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard supported the Wisconsin Elections Commission with more than 2,400 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen serving as poll workers on election day April 7. The Guard also assisted WEC by procuring and distributing supplies such as wipes, hand sanitizer, and spray bottles to polling sites, and another team of 30 troops were dispatched to Sheboygan County April 5 to conduct a specimen collection mission after establishing a mobile COVID-19 testing site at a senior living facility there.
A team of six Wisconsin National Guard medics also augmented the staff at a senior living facility in Grafton, Wisconsin, for three days in March while the facility dealt with a staffing shortfall after a COVID-19 outbreak there.
Also last month, a team of 30 Wisconsin National Guard personnel assisted the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) transport a group of Wisconsin citizens back to their homes after they returned to our state from a cruise ship that had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard.
The Citizen Soldiers and Airmen supporting the Wisconsin National Guard’s various mission sets are honored to support the state’s response.
“Not only are we taking care of the citizens of Wisconsin, but we are taking care of our citizen-Soldiers and I feel we are making a great impact,” said Lt. Col Jessica Yogerst Sullivan, a Waupun, Wisconsin resident and member of the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.
Sullivan is currently serving as the commander of the Wisconsin National Guard’s medical task force during this response.
Most of the troops called to state active duty left their local communities and civilian jobs to support the state’s response. Sgt. Michelle Baum is a TSA agent at the Dane County Regional Airport in her civilian capacity, but simultaneously serves as a medic in the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based 135th Area Support Medical Company in the National Guard.
“For me, being a Citizen Soldier is the ability to help others,” Baum said. “Whether that’s through TSA on the civilian side or on the military side as a medic I just like helping other people.”
Baum and other medics have been assisting with health assessments, checking vitals and administering IVs, if needed, for Guard members involved in responses. Other medics have been helping at isolation facilities or other missions.
Spc. Emma Anderson contributed to this report.