Feature   Defense News

Oregon National Guard Delivers Personal Protective Equipment

July 2, 2020

Soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard were called by the state in late March for a two-week mission to provide support in response to COVID-19. As the pandemic grew, so did the demand for support, which ultimately expanded the mission from 14 to 183 soldiers over a period of 79 days. 

During the activation, soldiers of Task Force Assurance completed 2,604 missions, distributing more than 46 million pieces of personal protective equipment to all 36 Oregon counties, nine tribal nations and two tribal health agencies, covering aout 140,000 miles throughout the state. Additionally, the guard assisted in shipping 140 ventilators to New York, as well as providing nearly 1 million masks to agricultural workers throughout Oregon.

A soldier checks under the hood of a truck.
Truck Check
Soldiers with the Oregon Army National Guard check their trucks and load of personal protective equipment before departing for deliveries throughout the state, June 8, 2020. About 200 Oregon National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in response to various missions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Holden
VIRIN: 200608-A-LM216-988X

The guard's COVID-19 response mission also included the setup and security of the Oregon Medical Station, outdoor tent space for testing at several hospitals and communications support at the unemployment office, as well as other state and county emergency operations centers

Despite the ever-evolving situation, Army Col. Philip DeMontigny, the commander  of Task Force Assurance, praised the work of the task force. ''We did what was required of the state at the time. I think the most important thing is that we know that if we need to flex the guard we can. We can quickly get soldiers on duty and then throw them whatever, and they're going to make the adjustments.''

The guard, working alongside state partners, helped ensure a rapid and unified response. With support from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, Task Force Assurance distributed face masks, gloves, face shields, gowns and hand sanitizer acquired through the U.S. National Strategic Reserve, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Oregon.

A soldier drives a forklift lifting a pallet of boxes.
Shipment Prep
Soldiers with the Oregon Army National Guard prepare shipments of personal protective equipment for delivery throughout the state, June 8, 2020. About 200 Oregon National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in response to various missions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Holden
VIRIN: 200608-A-LM216-837

As delivery trucks arrived full of PPE at the central distribution hub in Wilsonville, soldiers received, inventoried and staged tens of millions of pieces of various PPE. The PPE was then allocated to counties, tribes and medical facilities throughout Oregon. The allocation quantities were based on population density and COVID-19 cases, officials said.

DeMontigny also attributed the team's success to skill sets that are unique to the guard.

''Regardless of military occupational specialty, the dual status of the National Guard and reserves allows that opportunity for the civilian skill sets to be utilized within emergency situations,'' DeMontigny said.

These skills, paired with military training in logistics, enabled the task force to adapt quickly, effectively creating a force structure to achieve the mission. In tactical logistics, the brigade support battalion supplies the forward support companies, which distribute supplies to forces on the front lines.

In Task Force Assurance, orders distributed from the Wilsonville central hub were transported throughout the seven regional county assistance teams that consisted of about 12 soldiers at armories located in key locations across the state. From there, they were transported to the end users, similar to distribution in tactical logistics.

With this unique merging of civilian and military knowledge, combined with infrastructure and logistics already in place by the Oregon Military Department, soldiers with Task Force Assurance were able to get PPE to the end user in as little as 24 hours..

In addition to serving the country, the guard stands ready to serve neighbors, families and friends in the communities in which the guardsmen live. This mission in particular has been meaningful to the soldiers as they see the impact of their work on their state and their own communities.

Soldiers prepare large boxes for delivery.
Shipment Center
Soldiers with the Oregon Army National Guard prepare shipments of personal protective equipment for delivery throughout the state, June 8, 2020. About 200 Oregon National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in response to various missions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Holden
VIRIN: 200608-A-LM216-879

''We're on the ground level supporting each and every citizen of the state of Oregon, so it's much more personal for me,'' said Army Sgt. Juan Denmark, who joined the Oregon Army National Guard after seven years of active duty service. This shared mentality across the task force has kept the morale high as soldiers worked tirelessly to meet the demands of their state.

As the task force handed over the mission to the state, DeMontigny is proud that the team proved their capabilities for future operations.

''This is nothing that was planned,'' DeMontigny said. ''It's impromptu in the fact that nobody saw this coming. What we bring is, regardless of how modular the mission is, we can create a functioning unit that has a structure. Once that's done, we can quickly adjust to whatever the mission is.''

With fire season and its potential risk to the Cascadia subduction zone around the corner, DeMontigny said, he has confidence in the guard's readiness for future operations, 

''I'm glad that the task force could prove our value to the state as a response to domestic operations,'' he added.

(Courtesy of the Oregon National Guard.)