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Wisconsin National Guard Takes on New COVID-19 Missions

April 2, 2020 | BY ARMY CAPT. JOE TROVATO

The Wisconsin National Guard is helping to staff self-isolation facilities in Milwaukee and Madison and polling locations across the state for the April 7 election due to a shortage of volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is managing two of the self-isolation facilities, while the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are in charge of a third. Twelve Wisconsin National Guard medics and administrative troops are assigned at each of the two state-run self-isolation facilities, working in shifts to augment staff, while nearly 30 Guard members are helping to staff the Milwaukee-run facility.

Soldiers kneel on a floor while assembling small tables.
Guard Assistance
Army Pfc. Katrina McMartin of the Wisconsin National Guard assembles a side table at Clare Hall on the St. Francis de Sales Seminary grounds in St. Francis, Wis., April 2, 2020. Wisconsin National Guard soldiers helped to set up rooms in the building, which serves as an isolation facility for Milwaukee County’s homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch, Wisconsin Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200402-Z-TJ324-001

The teams are providing administrative support and medical monitoring for individuals who would otherwise be unable to effectively self-isolate, officials said.

The Wisconsin National Guard also received a request for assistance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission to staff polling sites for the election. Guard members will serve in civilian clothes, augmenting volunteers, poll workers and local elections officials. They will perform the same duties as traditional poll workers.

Two soldiers wearing masks and blue gloves stand with medical screening equipment in their hands.
Evaluation Ready
Army Sgt. Jebediah Jenkins and Army Pfc. Jenna Zinser, Wisconsin National Guard health care specialists, prepare to evaluate people at the St. Francis de Sales Seminary in St. Francis, Wis., April 2, 2020. Guard soldiers helped to set up rooms in the building, which serves as an isolation facility for Milwaukee County’s homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch, Wisconsin Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200402-Z-TJ555-001

''We are citizen-soldiers and airmen who live and work in these same communities,'' said Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin's adjutant general. ''We are neighbors helping neighbors, and our soldiers and airmen span every community in Wisconsin. Clerks and elections officials are having a hard time finding volunteers to work at the polls so our democratic process can play out, and we’re honored to assist and help ease some of the staffing needs.''

The Guard is working with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to procure and distribute hand sanitizer, wipes and spray bottles to polling sites to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Army officer briefs soldiers.
Guard Mobilization
Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, speaks to Guard soldiers mobilizing for state active duty in response to the Wisconsin Department of Health Service’s request for assistance, March 12, 2020. About 300 troops had been mobilized to state active duty to posture the Guard for state support if needed.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Alex Baum, Wisconsin Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200312-Z-YL554-1370

Meanwhile, the Guard continues to support other missions around Wisconsin, supporting DHS and helping to receive, repackage and distribute critical personal protective equipment around the state.

About 350 soldiers and airmen are serving on state active duty in response to Gov. Tony Evers' public health emergency declaration March 12.

Six Wisconsin National Guard medics helped the staff at a senior living facility in Grafton for three days in March while the facility dealt with a staffing shortfall after a COVID-19 outbreak there. Also last month, 30 Wisconsin National Guard personnel helped the Wisconsin DHS in transporting citizens back to their homes after they returned from a cruise ship that had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard.

(Army Capt. Joe Trovato is assigned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard.)