The Wisconsin National Guard’s 20-month mobilization for COVID-19 is the longest sustained domestic mobilization in its history
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- More than 20 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and Wisconsin's National Guard continues to assist communities by managing the state's stockpile of vaccines, and administering COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
Approximately 500 citizen soldiers and airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard are mobilized across the state.
According to the Wisconsin National Guard, the mobilization for COVID-19 represents the longest sustained domestic mobilization in Wisconsin National Guard history.
Wisconsin troops have mobilized throughout history for long periods in support of overseas combat operations in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, both world wars, the Spanish-American War, and the Civil War, but never have so many troops mobilized for so long here in Wisconsin.
At one point in the spring of 2020, more than 1,400 troops were mobilized as the Guard took on a multitude of missions to support the state ranging from COVID testing, staffing a state call center that informed people of their test results, assisting county medical examiners, staffing self-isolation facilities for individuals who didn’t have the means to effectively self-isolate, assisting at a senior living facility amidst a staffing shortage, and even transporting a group of Wisconsin residents home that were exposed to COVID in the earliest days of the pandemic.
Since the pandemic began, the Guard has administered approximately 1.2 million COVID tests. When vaccines became available in early 2021, the Guard assisted with mobile and community vaccination teams, helping administer more than 230,000 vaccines statewide while also assisting the state with personnel to help manage the state’s vaccine shipments and inventory.
In the fall of 2021 only a few hundred troops remained mobilized, but as the state saw increased demand for testing and vaccinations stemming from new variants and employer vaccination mandates, additional troops mobilized on a voluntary basis to meet that need. As testing and vaccination demand waned, some troops were repurposed to assist with basic functions at mental health facilities.
In recent weeks, some of the troops have taken on a new role– serving as temporary nursing assistants at four state mental health facilities at the request of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Approximately 60 Wisconsin National Guard troops completed a multi-day training regimen to assist with basic tasks and functions to assist healthcare workers at the facilities they’re supporting. They are also completing an additional 59-hour Certified Nursing Assistant program under the supervision of registered nurses at each facility.
Others trained to perform the temporary nursing assistant role at Wisconsin State Fair Park in the event additional support was needed at the state’s alternate care facility.
The Guard says citizen Soldiers and airmen in the Wisconsin National Guard continue to find inspiration throughout the state to serve their fellow citizens and communities.
“I’m proud to serve alongside so many professional military counterparts as we respond to the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Master Sgt. Emily Decker, a member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard now serving as a company first sergeant on the COVID-19 task force. “The camaraderie we have forged together during this time of service has been life-changing, and the respect I have for them is immeasurable. Each one of the men and women that have raised their hand to serve during this pandemic have played a critical role. Looking back at the past 22 months, it’s incredible knowing the impact we have had collectively on serving the citizens of Wisconsin.”