‘Put down their civilian lives’: WI National Guard closes in on one year assisting with pandemic response

NOW: ‘Put down their civilian lives’: WI National Guard closes in on one year assisting with pandemic response

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – As the COVID-19 pandemic closes in on one year in Wisconsin, the National Guard continues its role by helping give tests and vaccines, among other duties.

It’s the longest and largest domestic response by the Wisconsin National Guard in history. What some may not realize, is many troops have put their civilian lives on hold.

“On the civilian side, I work as a physician’s assistant for a cardiology department,” Capt. David Eischen said.

Sgt. Jacob Petersen is a senior human resources assistant.

Both Eischen and Petersen live and work in southeast Wisconsin, but neither have been back to their jobs since March 2020.

“It’s hard to believe that this has been a year,” Petersen said.

Right now, there are around 600 others just like them in the state who are mobilized.

“These are citizen soldiers and airmen who put down their civilian lives and answer the call when their community, their state or their nation needs them, otherwise they’re maintaining civilian jobs,” Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Maj. Joe Trovato said.

At the height of the response, 1,400 troops were mobilized in the state.

“We kind of came to the decision that I might be more valuable out in the community rather than in the office,” Eischen explained. “Everybody in Wisconsin’s life has probably been touched by some of our efforts.”

Under law, troops' jobs need to be available to them once the mission is complete, although there is no clear end in sight.

“The COVID response alone is the Wisconsin National Guard’s single largest sustained domestic mobilization in our entire history, which dates all the way back to 1837,” Trovato said.

Over the last 12 months, more than one million COVID-19 tests have been done by the National Guard, and now, they’re helping with vaccination efforts.

“I think we’re going to be doing this and seeing it all the way through, I think that was always going to be the case for the National Guard,” Eischen said.

“We’re your neighbors, we’re always here, we’re always here to help,” Petersen said.

The National Guard says they believe there are three things that help make their troops successful: community, employers and families.

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