I recently caught up with the Kentucky National Guard’s Director of Public Affairs, Major Stephen Martin for an email interview about the Guard’s current situation in the commonwealth’s fight against COVID-19. Below is a series of questions and answers from that interview.
Question: The Kentucky National Guard is comprised of citizen-soldiers with diverse backgrounds. How does that help in its fight against COVID-19?
Major Martin: The bulk of the Kentucky National Guard is made up of Citizen-Soldiers who manage both a Guard military career and a civilian career in a variety of occupations. When those Guardsmen are called upon for support, they bring their civilian occupational specialties with them. This includes first responders, medical personnel, construction workers, business owners, school teachers and entrepreneurs. This is one of the aspects of the National Guard that make us so unique and valuable to the Department of Defense and to the state of Kentucky.
Question: What are some of the missions assigned to the KYNG during this pandemic?
Major Martin: We’re currently working on 8 missions:
1) Drive Through Testing Sites, providing Logistical support / Traffic Control Support & helping to manage foot traffic. Overseen from the Governor’s office on where to best stand up these sites & for how long.
2) Alternate Care Facility at the Kentucky Fair & Expo Center in Louisville. We’re there to alleviate stress to the medical infrastructure around the Louisville area. More than 200 service members along with many other agencies (DPH, Homeland Security, KYEM, Army Corps of Engineers and many other state, local & county partners)
3) Food bank support – Lexington, Louisville, Elizabethtown, Wilder (Northern KY)
4) Call Center Operations
5) Warehouse Support – sorting PPE
6) Patient Movement Dispatch Teams across the state
7) Hospital support at 24 hospitals providing a presence there.
8) Non-Congregate Sites (NCS) at Lake Barkley and Lake Cumberland to house patients that need to be isolated due to COVID exposure, sickness.
Question: Governor Beshear said that the Louisville Fairground’s mobile hospital construction was completed ahead of schedule. How was the Guard able to complete that mission in such a timely manner?
Major Martin: The Alternate Care Facility at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville was completed about a week faster than originally projected. The Governor and his team anticipated that the COVID19 peak might come as early as last week so instructed the numerous agencies involved to see if we could speed up construction. The ACF was a whole of Government response that incorporated the Kentucky National Guard, Emergency Management, Homeland Security, Department of Public Health, Army Corps of Engineers, and many other state, county and local partners. We accelerated the purchase of equipment and brought on additional Kentucky Guardsmen to help stand up the facility as soon as the equipment became available.
Question: How are the soldiers/airmen holding up during this trying time?
Major Martin: Our Soldiers and Airmen are in good spirits as we provide support during the COVID19 crisis. We’re Kentuckians helping Kentuckians and we’re in this together, this is one of the many reasons that our service members signed on the dotted line, to protect our country and serve our community.
Question: Is the Guard operating around the clock in assisting communities throughout the commonwealth?
Major Martin: The Kentucky National Guard does have 24/7 support for the COVID19 response. The majority of the support to the public is during normal working hours, we do have Soldiers and Airmen who are working diligently around the clock.
Major Martin went on to say that, “This is a whole of community response and we’re fully ready to do our part, whatever the state needs of us to help fight against this invisible enemy. We’re in this together.”
I will continue to update the Kentucky National Guard’s role in Kentucky’s fight against COVID-19.