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The coin that all Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen mobilized for the COVID-19 pandemic response will receive for their service. At its peak, the Wisconsin National Guard mobilized more than 1,400 troops to support Wisconsin’s response. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Trovato

MADISON, Wis. — A newly designed challenge coin and regular fitness challenges are among the ways Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have remained motivated through nearly five months of mobilization to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,000 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been activated since early March to support the state’s response to COVID-19.

Throughout the mobilization, Soldiers and Airmen have been a part of specimen collection teams, staffed isolation facilities, alternate care facilities, warehouse and distribution missions and mortuary affairs. Motivation is key in this continued support.

“The Wisconsin National Guard has never had a domestic operation of this size and scope in its history,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Patrouille, the senior enlisted leader of the 64th Troop Command. “Leadership and motivation are vitally important to the continual improvement of our processes and procedures for our multitude of missions.”

Citizen Soldiers and Citizen Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard collect specimens for COVID-19 testing May 16 at the Menominee Department of Transit Services in Keshena, Wis. The Wisconsin National Guard has multiple COVID-19 specimen collection teams operating throughout the state. Wisconsin National Guard photo

A newly designed challenge coin will be given to those who successfully complete their duties while on orders.

Staff Sgt. Carl Hackbarth, the readiness noncommissioned officer for 64th Troop Command Headquarters Company, designed the coin. Hackbarth worked to ensure the newly designed coin represented the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard while incorporating the three Army major subordinate commands that supported the operation – the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade, 64th Troop Command, and 426th Regional Training Institute – as well as the Air wings – the 115th Fighter Wing, 128th Air Refueling Wing, and Volk Combat Readiness Training Center.

“It provides a symbol of comradery and pride.” he said. “As I enter the twilight of my career, with seven months to retirement, I thought it would be a great gesture to leave something that a Soldier would remember where he or she was during this time in history.”

Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, gives a coin to Staff Sgt. Paul Bray for his exemplary work at a specimen collection site in Antigo, Wis., June 4, 2020. During his visit to a COVID-19 specimen collection site located in his hometown of Antigo, Wis., Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp stopped by local businesses and spoke to Antigo residents about being able to serve the community he grew up in. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Spc. Emma Anderson

Soldiers and Airmen mobilized to support the COVID-19 response have also participated in a variety of physical fitness challenges as a means of maintaining motivation. Col. John Morgen, the Commander of the 64th Troop Command, Chaplain John Jordens, and the rest of the religious support team at the 64th Troop Command, collaborated to institute the fitness challenges.

“We saw this as an opportunity to have individuals and teams motivate each other.” Patrouille said. “As you look at your team members that you serve with every day, you don’t ever want to let them down and these physical challenges allow the teams to motivate each other resulting in some individuals reaching personal goals they never thought possible.”

The first fitness challenge included running a minimum of 50 miles in 30 days. Troops organized into teams of three-to-five and also competed for the highest cumulative average of miles. Out of the 55 original participants 36 met the goal of running 50 miles.

Another fitness challenge involved teams tracking how many of the Army’s new Army Combat Fitness Test pushups and minutes of planks they completed. The top team completed 10,500 pushups and 764 minutes of planking.

As the Guard’s COVID-19 pandemic mobilization stretches into its fifth month, maintaining motivation has been key to ensure Wisconsin’s citizen receive the highest level of support possible on a daily basis.

“We are pleased to say as a team we continue to improve every day,” Patrouille said. “From the teams on the ground all the way up to the (joint task force) and state leadership, the Wisconsin National Guard provides for the military response capabilities in support of domestic and federal requirements. If there was ever a doubt from the citizens of the State of Wisconsin to the importance of a strong and vital National Guard, this mission certainly solidified our presence.”