By Maj. Holli Nelson
| West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | July 17, 2020
Airmen wave the United States and State of West Virginia Flags as they taxi onto the apron after returning from deployment on July 16, 2020 at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, Charleston, W.Va. Approximately 50 Airmen returned in a two day span from Kuwait, where they provided support for C-130H operations in the Middle East Area of Responsibility. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Caleb Vance) (Photo by Staff Sgt. Caleb Vance)
This week, the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) surpassed day 126 of supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. Currently, 395 members of the WVNG are on duty and we have completed 1,840 missions to date.
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in areas throughout the state, the West Virginia Guard has been working with the local health departments to conduct additional lanes in order to support increasing testing demand. As a result, Task Force CRE and Task Force Medical will once again assist at multiple COVID-19 testing lanes this weekend in Berkeley, Monongalia and Jefferson Counties.
Throughout this week, the Guard has assisted with numerous rapid response missions, other testing lanes for COVID-19, including at Sharpe Hospital, the House Chambers and Charleston Police Department, and sanitization missions. COVID-19 testing, which reached nearly 6,000 last weekend – a record high for the WVNG - has been accomplished in conjunction with the local health departments in the affected counties.
The Guard’s efforts to build up our in-state supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a continuous focus for our team this week, as hospitals continue to increase their PPE usage. Guard members, working with the West Virginia Emergency Management Division, have increased procurement for in-demand items such as eye protection, N-95 respirators and gloves and are currently able to meet a 180-day supply, if needed, for surge capacity.
This week, the Guard received notification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that the first reimbursement for state expenditures related to COVID-19 filed with the agency have been approved. The amount received to the State of West Virginia on July 16 totaled $184,000. An additional $665,000 in currently awaiting approval in the system for reimbursement.
Cadets at the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy returned to their physical location, with strict guidelines in place to meet social distancing, mask wearing, and proper hygiene, for the start of the newest class this week. More than 40 cadets are enrolled in the program, many of whom were returning members from the previous class who were sent home at the beginning of the pandemic. An additional 14 cadets are enrolled in the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program. Cadets who complete the ChalleNGe Academy will graduate in December and will have the option to earn their high school diploma.
The 130th Airlift Wing located in Charleston, welcomed home the remaining deployed service members this week who had been serving in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Kuwait. In total, nearly 130 Airmen from the Operations and Maintenance Groups were deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Base with C-130H aircraft as a part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. The deployed unit serves as the primary airlift hub and gateway for delivering combat power to joint and coalition forces in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility (AOR).
The West Virginia National Guard also recognized the upcoming one-year anniversary of the death of Staff Sgt. William “Billy” Friese, who passed away last year in a non-combat related incident while deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Friese was a light-wheeled mechanic with the 821st Engineer Company and had served in the West Virginia Army National Guard for more than 12 years.
“We can never forget the service or sacrifice of our brave Soldiers and Airmen, especially those who have given their lives in defense of our freedom,” stated Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the WVNG. “Billy is still dearly missed by everyone in our organization. We will continue to uphold the promise we made to take care of and support his family going forward. Our Gold Star Families mean everything to us and we will honor Billy’s life and legacy through his memory.”
As of this release, the WVNG has provided the following for the citizens of West Virginia: