West Virginia National Guard highlights 2020 accomplishments

By Edwin Wriston | West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | Dec. 31, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —

The West Virginia National Guard had numerous significant accomplishments in 2020 that included homeland and disaster response missions, deployments around the globe, and sustained activation to help West Virginia combat the deadly SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“2020 has been a year like no other,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the Adjutant General of the WVNG. “Yet the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard have answered the call to not only meet but to exceed expectations, and to overcome the daunting challenges faced. The more than 6,400 Soldiers, Airmen, and civilians of our Guard have dedicated themselves to demonstrating our unique capabilities and deep dedication to service on the local, state, national and international stage throughout the year. I couldn’t be prouder of the accomplishments of our team and know they will continue to remain an integral and vital force for good both at home and abroad.”

 

As the world faced the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Guard stepped up in a mighty way by mobilizing for a mission on the home front that they had never faced before. More than 700 Guardsmen and women served at some point in time in the State’s response to COVID-19 in what is now the longest running state active-duty mission in our history. Whether delivering personal protective equipment, (PPE) providing COVID-19 testing, delivering meals to West Virginians in need, innovating our own PPE, to taking the planning and logistical lead on vaccine distribution, the Guard remained engaged on all fronts of the pandemic response throughout 2020.

 

Throughout 2020, WVNG members continued to support border security efforts along our southwestern border, responded to flooding events in multiple communities here at home, continued support of 2016 flood recovery efforts, deployed personnel to fight raging wildfires in western states, stood up teams for potential deployment to support hurricane relief efforts and deployed and welcomed home more than 900 service members from missions around the world.

 

The Guard also continued to provide economic development opportunities to the Mountain State through additional expansion of the Patriot Guardens program, the Muddlety Apple Project, and the former Hobet mine property; we provided enhanced educational opportunities through multiple public safety and first responder course offerings, continued participation and facilitation of the Governor’s Jobs and Hope program, officially opened a second Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South in Montgomery, continued support and expansion of the high school-based Future Leaders Program; and provided public outreach efforts for events and programs across the state.

 

Significant WVNG accomplishments in 2020 include:

 

  • The West Virginia Army National Guard ended 2020 with an end strength of 4,152 Soldiers, or 101 percent manning of authorized positions. The West Virginia Air National Guard’s two flying units both ended the year above end strength goals with the 167th Airlift Wing at 109 percent, and the 130th Airlift Wing at 101.5 percent.

     

  • The West Virginia National Guard provided a direct economic impact of $368,227,898 and an indirect economic impact of $500,789,941. For every state dollar invested, West Virginia received $23 in federal funding in 2020.

     

  • More than 1,460 members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard deployed around the world. This included support of our Federal mission, the Global War on Terror, and humanitarian and natural disaster missions, including Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, as well as support operations at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico, and detention operations and external security operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

 

  • The 130th Airlift Wing logged 2,674 hours of flight time on 1,662 sorties, hauling 4,809 tons of cargo, transported 6,494 passengers, and has accumulated more than 200,000 accident-free flying hours.

     

  • At the end of 2020, the 130th Airlift Wing was selected by the United States Air Force for the conversion to eight C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft, and are expected to receive the new airframes in 2021.

 

  • The 167th Airlift Wing logged nearly 4,600 hours of flight time on 1,200 sorties, delivered nearly 13 million pounds of cargo, and transported more than 7,500 passengers.

 

  • The Future Leaders Program (FLP) continued to grow in 2020. Over 570 cadets are enrolled in the FLP across 12 schools and 5 counties (Clay, Logan, Mineral, Putnam and Wyoming), with a 100% graduation rate for all 123 seniors in the program. FLP contributed 877 total service hours to their local communities and saw the enlistment of 20 graduates into the National Guard and other military services.

     

  • The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) has graduated 4,743 West Virginia teens as of this year and provided 1,770 high school diplomas for graduating cadets.

     

  • The second National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, MCA South, was stood up and began classes in Montgomery, West Virginia, doubling the number of at-risk students eligible for the program from across West Virginia each year while bringing 58 new jobs and expanding economic opportunity in the upper Kanawha Valley.

     

  • During 2020, Jobs and Hope completed seven courses, including Greenhouse Technician and Heavy Equipment Operator courses, graduating 55 students, of whom 27 gained employment.

 

  • In 2020, the West Virginia STARBASE program provided hands-on and virtual learning opportunities to more than 2,400 students in Kanawha, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, including “Starbase on Wheels”, with curriculum being delivered by STARBASE staff at schools.

     

  • Camp Dawson’s Training Center supported the training of approximately 110,885 personnel for the year.

 

  • The Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Battalion conducted 103 critical infrastructure assessments and trained 8,599 personnel directly involved in the protection of critical infrastructure and key resources throughout the nation.

     

  • Counterdrug support aviation crews flew over 600 hours supporting 123 counter-narcotics missions which facilitated law enforcement eradicating 48,309 marijuana plants and seizing 252.5 pounds of bulk marijuana, 13,565 grams of cocaine, 1423.6 grams of heroin, 502 grams of fentanyl, 5,603 grams of methamphetamine, 808 grams of crack cocaine, 1,847 pills of illicit pharmaceuticals and 286 arrests.

 

  • The State Partnership Program office successfully conduced more than 25 in person and virtual engagements with our partners in Peru and Qatar in 2020, despite restrictions of movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

COVID-19 response efforts played the largest role in WVNG activities during 2020 and will continue to be a pivotal driver in 2021.

 

Upon activation by Governor Jim Justice in early March, the WVNG established six lines of effort to respond to the pandemic: operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies, innovation, state surge capacity and capability, and conducting data analysis to combat the virus.

Various task forces and action teams were established to focus on specific COVID-19-related missions including the state’s ability to conduct voluntary COVID-19 mapping; epidemiology support; information hotline manpower support; unemployment claim manpower to WorkForce WV; COVID-19 testing;  PPE training, production, and distribution; logistical movement of critical supplies; sanitization of critical infrastructure, healthcare facilities and governmental facilities; data and analysis of the information environment; telecommunications access including rural remote telehealth and Kids Connect Wi-Fi instillations across the state; and vaccine distribution.

Some of these accomplishments include:

 

  • WVNG personnel embedded with the West Virginia Department of Revenue and worked closely with the Governor’s Office and other State agencies to plan and oversee the obligation of over $2.6B available to the state through three primary lines of effort which included grants, reimbursements and agencies.

 

  • Trained 834 West Virginia businesses in PPE/COVID-19 operating best practices; trained 4,838 civilians as well as first responders and 111 medical or long-term care facilities, conducted 258 facility disinfection missions in 25 counties, disinfected 632 first responder vehicles, conducted 1,514 N95 mask fit tests, and disinfected 15,403 N95 masks.

 

  • Established the first two Department of Defense registered COVID-19 Mobile Testing Laboratories through the DoD Clinical Laboratory Improvement Program process.

 

  • Conducted and/or assisted with more than 90,000 COVID-19 tests through various drive through testing lanes with County/Local Health Departments and as a part of rapid response missions at the direction of the Governor.

 

  • Along with food bank and additional volunteers, packaged and delivered more than 353,000 meals to help combat food scarcity and hunger around the state.

 

  • Deployed six regional epidemiology teams and dispersed them across the state to assist the WVDHHR with investigation protocol development, COVID-19 mapping investigation, strategic planning, and surveillance of affected individuals.

 

  • Conducted more than 97,600 voluntary COVID-19 mapping assignments to help identify potential disease vector points and help reduce rapid community spread.

 

  • Partnered with WVU to developed a complex model to monitor and analyze PPE supplies and medical capacity throughout the state, including on-hand inventory levels, bed capacity, consumption patterns, social distancing policies, and hospitalization rates in order to determine appropriate levels of PPE and the need for procuring additional stock based on a given timeline.

 

  • Shipped more than 19 million pieces of PPE to all 55 counties as well as the construction and distribution of 609,500 COVID-19 test kits.

 

  • Produced more than 230,000 pieces of PPE including sewn face coverings, respirator masks, reusable gowns, and face shields for distribution to medical facilities and front-line workers.

 

  • As a part of Governor Justice’s Kids Connect initiative, the WVNG J6 installed West Virginia Board of Education WiFi hotspots at 20 armories around the state to enhance reach for students and community members who were without broadband access.

     

  • Headed up the Joint Interagency Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccinations, which brought together more than 20 statewide agencies and organizations to plan and execute the safe, efficient receipt and transport of COVID-19 vaccine supplies.

 

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