| West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | March 23, 2020
West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, talks about the great responsibility of being a wing commander during a change of command ceremony at the 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard, Jan. 12, 2020. Col. Martin Timko assumed command of the wing, Col. David Cochran relinquished command during the ceremony. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle) (Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)
West Virginia National Guard Team:
We understand that the ongoing situation with COVID-19 is weighing heavy on our personnel, their families, our state and nation. This is also a huge stressor for our entire force. There are many questions everyone is asking, and we are doing all that we can to answer them and provide regular updates. Across the state, our leaders are taking the COVID-19 situation seriously to ensure the health and safety of our force is maintained.
Much of our work force has implemented telework or remote working schedules following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. In the coming days, we will continue to monitor the Health Protection Conditions and are prepared to make additional adjustments to our full-time force and those working on State Active Duty. Our current exceptions are the members who are deemed key staff and mission essential who provide essential services to maintain our ability to prepare for and respond to this incident, while also ensuring our combat readiness. I cannot underscore how thankful we are to the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard who are serving West Virginia during this critical time of need.
The Department of Defense has instituted a travel ban which limits the movement of our Soldiers Airmen, and our civilian employees. Any Airman or Soldier who feels it is essential to travel outside of normal commuting distance for emergency purposes can request exception to the travel ban which can be approved by WVNG leadership. Travel by personal vehicles within normal commuting distances is authorized.
Across the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard, all IDT/UTA training are being rescheduled during the month of April in order to prevent spread of the virus and to ensure the health of our people and to have the facilities and force available to manage any State Active Duty support. I have authorized all Commanders authority to offer certain Soldiers or Airmen online training commensurate with at least two days of drill pay. This will enable our service members who rely on their Guard pay to maintain their benefits to include Tricare Reserve Select, which many of our Guardsmen contribute to through their drill checks. Please check with your command related to each individual requirement.
This week, we made the difficult decision to send home all cadets from the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution for the safety of all cadets and cadre at the facility. During this time, we will ensure that every cadet has an opportunity to engage with distance learning, maintain contact with MCA representatives and that when we are able to open ChalleNGe once again, they will have the ability to continue their course work and graduate.
There are many questions from our service members and their families about how COVID-19 will affect future training events or those currently deployed. The situation remains fluid and new information is being received every day. We will continue to provide updates on any critical training for our force as we move forward. I have the utmost faith in the abilities of our Soldiers and Airmen to conduct their wartime missions and project power in support of American objectives. Our most important work right now is to protect our Soldiers, Airmen and their families while being responsive to the needs of our state and nation as we deal with this ongoing pandemic.
We are currently providing a small number of West Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in support of our civil authority partners across the state. While we are taking measures to reduce face-to-face training for federal missions, we may be asked to provide capabilities to other state agencies in response to COVID-19. We currently have liaison officers working with our Department of Health and Human Resources, Department of Education, and local hospitals to answer phone lines, while other service members are providing logistical support for medical supply movement across the state. We also have personnel engaged in assisting with food distribution to children and families in need in the Mountain State. In the coming days, we will continue to adjust our force as requests for support to combat COVID-19 come in. As always, the West Virginia National Guard is willing and ready to support our lead agencies and we will provide updates on our missions to support the State of West Virginia as they arise.
To our families, in the coming days, weeks, and potentially months, there may come a time when we call upon your loved one to assist in the response to this pandemic. The collective knowledge, expertise and fortitude of our force is already proving critical in a time of need for West Virginia and I have the utmost faith in our Guardsmen and women to accomplish any task given to our organization. Most importantly, I am able to call upon our brave men and women because of the support you provide to them during some of our State and Nation's most difficult times.
I once again will urge everyone to stay connected to our information sharing outlets such as social media, our website, our Family Readiness Groups and your chain of command. We will continue to reach out to each and every Soldier and Airmen going forward in order to ensure you are taken care of.
Please do your part to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and your local Department of Health on personal hygiene, hand washing and social distancing. This is our best weapon to combat the spread of COVID-19.
There is rampant spread of misinformation going on across social media platforms right now. We ask that if anyone has questions or concerns, please reach out and will we provide the best explanation possible.
Thank you again for your patience through this difficult time. Together, we will showcase our West Virginia resilience and strength and come through this victorious.
MG James Hoyer