Answering the Call: Joint Task Force Ready Guardian
By Staff Sgt. Dakota Helvie, Kansas National Guard
/ Published May 04, 2020
TOPEKA, Kan. --
Soldiers and Airmen of the Kansas National Guard are supporting the COVID-19 response through the Joint Task Force Ready Guardian at the Armed Force Reserve Center in Topeka, Kansas.
The JTF Ready Guardian is a historic event for the Kansas National Guard. While Guardsmen are routinely called upon to help with domestic operations in support of natural disasters, this is the first response of this magnitude that has required the activation of a joint task force.
Joint Task Force Ready provides command and control, mission execution and personnel management in conjunction with the Joint Operations Center as part of the COVID-19 response. Mission requests from the county are assigned through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.
“There is a large cell of civilians that are working behind the scenes to manage our operations,” explained Col. Michelle Hannah, task force commander. “They receive a request from the county through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, analyze the request and figure out what entity, what partner, can best fit the requirement — and if it's the National Guard, then they send the mission request through what we call the Joint Operations Center.”
The Joint Operations Center establishes the operational guidelines needed to complete the missions sent down to the JTF and enables the task force to have the necessary equipment, point of contacts, and workforce to achieve and sustain the mission. The JOC works with the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to assess the needs of the communities when local authorities request assistance and plan current and future missions for the JTF.
Kansas National Guardsmen have answered the call to support their communities on a local and state level.
“That’s the power of the National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Mohatt, assistant adjutant general - Army. “When a time of need is identified by the governor and by the local county managers, they're there because they live in the community and they respond to local disasters within the community.”
There are several missions being conducted across the state; food distribution missions, expanded community-based testing, as well as, transportation missions. The food distribution mission supports those who may be dealing with food insecurity right now. The JTF is trying to help bridge that gap by supporting local food banks such as Harvesters in order to provide manpower to help distribute donated food to Kansans. The medical missions are not only conducting screening at sites, but Guardsmen are also handling the basic disease investigation and daily contact tracing calls.
“We’re using Kansas Army and Air Guard Guardsmen to help augment the county health centers to conduct the COVID testing,” said Maj. James Marshall, health services human resource officer, Kansas Medical Detachment. “Once that is complete, we have a carrier mission that will go to the different sites, collect the samples and bring them back here to the state lab."
While parts of the nation and Kansas are currently under a stay-at-home order, Guardsmen and women are ensuring vital missions are being completed, with safety being a priority. The JTF is taking extra precautions to keep the Guards members safe, observing social distancing guidelines, making sure that they have the appropriate personal protective equipment, i.e., medical masks and gloves. In some situations, gowns, booties and the face shield are required depending on the mission.
As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of the people of Kansas, the Kansas National Guard stands ready to aid and assist.
“Our Kansas National Guardsmen – both Army and Air – when called upon, have always been ready to help our fellow Kansans during times of need,” said Col. Chris Ioder, assistant adjutant general - Air. “Helping our Kansas community during this crisis is what makes the Kansas National Guard truly unique. I am proud of our soldiers and airmen in answering this call.”
“The National Guard takes that military profession to the next level - supporting missions at home,” said Hannah. “We're really supporting our neighbors and our families at home in times of crisis like these.”