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136th Airlift Wing leadership reflects on 4-month activation

Airman administers a COVID-19 test.

Texas Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Jyoti KC, 136th Medical Group medic, administers a COVID-19 test to a fellow Texan June 16, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. Citizen Airmen are committed to supporting our Texas communities and will stay on mission until the people of Texas are safe, secure and healthy. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means)

Texas Air and Army National Guardsmen prepare to administer COVID-19 tests at a meat packing plant in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

Texas Air and Army National Guardsmen prepare to administer COVID-19 tests at a meat packing plant in Mount Pleasant, Texas, May, 19, 2020. On the order of Governor Greg Abbott, Texas National Guardsmen began providing free COVID-19 testing to employees at meat processing plants across the state of Texas to curb the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities and to ensure Texas' food supply remains stable during the pandemic. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sergeant Sean Kornegay)

Guardsmen administer COVID-19 tests to fellow Texans.

Texas Air and Army National Guardsmen administer COVID-19 tests to fellow Texans June 16, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. Texas Airmen are committed to supporting our Texas communities and will stay on mission until the people of Texas are safe, secure and healthy. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means)

Citizen Airman directs traffic for provision distribution during COVID-19 response in Saginaw, Texas.

Texas Air National Guard Citizen Airman directs traffic for provision distribution during COVID-19 response in Saginaw, Texas, April 23, 2020. Texas Military Department Guardsmen teamed up with volunteers to provide assistance to local food banks across Texas supporting support families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Texas Air National Guard photo taken by Staff Sgt. Sean Kornegay)

Guardsmen prepare family food boxes for distribution.

Texas Air National Guardsmen place fresh produce in families' vehicles from Tarrant Area Food Bank June 30, 2020, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. This drive-through food bank boasts one of the largest food runs during the COVID-19 response mission to date, serving more than 1,500 families in a day. More than 68 million pounds of food has been distributed since this mission started. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Charissa Menken)

Citizen Airmen enjoy local food and complimentary t-shirts from Tarrant Area Food Bank.

Texas Air National Guardsmen commemerate time spent working with the Tarrant Area Food Bank for the COVID-19 response mission July 9th, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Citizen Airmen enjoy local food and complimentary t-shirts after Tarrant Area Food Bank, Chief Operating Officer Bennett Cepak, gave a thank you speech. TAFB's mobile pantries have served more than 150,000 households from March to June 2020 with support from the Citizen Airmen on COVID-19 response mission. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)

Guardsmen prepare family food boxes for distribution.

Citizen Airmen from the 136th Airlift Wing move pallets of canned goods and fresh produce from Tarrant Area Food Bank trucks June 30, 2020, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. This drive-through food bank boasts one of the largest food runs during the COVID-19 response mission to date, serving more than 1,500 families in a day. More than 68 million pounds of food has been distributed since this mission started. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Charissa Menken)

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas --

Can you remember as far back as the 12th of March?  That was the day that Governor Abbott activated the Texas National Guard in support of COVID-19 response operations.  Very soon after the 12th we sent our first Air National Guardsmen from the 136 AW out the door to assist in our local communities and as far away as El Paso. It is now mid-July and we are still at it…

Members of CE were in the first group of Guardsmen to respond in order to survey buildings as potential overflow medical facilities.  Very soon after that, we sent medical teams out to do testing and other teams to assist with food bank operations.  We have members from every unit in the wing mobilized in this effort that spans all of Texas. As Guardsmen, we are accustomed to being called on for an initial response for a disaster of relatively short duration.  Hurricane Harvey lasted about three weeks and that was two weeks longer than a normal hurricane event.  As Texans serving Texans we have answered the call with as many as 256 members of our wing on orders at the peak of our response effort.

Here is a snapshot, as of July 11, of what the Texas Military Department states has accomplished during the COVID-19 response effort: “Our guardsmen have been on duty for 121 days now, conducting essential missions such as providing 416,728 COVID tests to the public across 235 counties, disinfecting 284 senior care centers and public sites across the state, supporting nine food bank locations by distributing over 82.2 million meals, establishing and operating a call center to answer 472,388 calls assisting citizens across Texas with COVID testing appointments, manufacturing 18 million protective masks, distributing 7,111 pallets of personal protective equipment at eight locations to our healthcare professionals and first responders, conducting 115 engineering assessments on potential alternate healthcare facilities across the state, and supporting the activities of 17 partner state agencies across Texas.” The Army, Air and State Guard have accomplished remarkable things.

And don’t forget the Civil Disturbance Operations that took place.  All of our available 136th Security Forces Squadron personnel were called to State Active Duty to assist with protecting citizens and property during that critical time.  All wing members should take great pride in how the unit has responded to all of these calls to service. It is inspiring.

The COVID- 19 response has exceeded four months, and we’re not quite done yet. The Tarrant Area Food Bank mission is winding down and many of our members have already demobilized.  Our members assigned to the Medical Testing Teams are still going strong. There is a plan to demobilize them, but there is talk of extending the medical mission as our civilian leaders continue to grapple with controlling the spread of this virus. 

COVID-19 is a persistent, unpredictable and lethal virus and so we must take great care in doing what we can to prevent its continued spread.  When you are at work or in public spaces protect yourself and others by: 1) wear a face covering, 2) maintain physical distance from others (minimum of 6 feet recommended), 3) Do not touch your face, 4) wash your hands 5) Don’t come to work if you are sick or feel sick.  This is good advice to follow to aid in preventing the spread of viruses and other germs.  When you come to the base you need to expect to sign in/out of the facility you are visiting, and conduct a quick health screening that includes a temperature check and a questionnaire.  If you are a visitor to the facility please call ahead to the office you plan to visit to coordinate your arrival. The doors to most facilities remain locked throughout the day and only one entrance is being used for most facilities.

We are a military force that is counted upon for our nation’s defense. It is our duty as individuals to remain ready. Please work closely with your supervision to remain at a high level of readiness. The hybrid drills (part in-person and part virtual) have presented a big challenge in providing training.  Command Chief Mitchell and I appreciate the positive attitudes we’ve seen throughout the wing in regard to staying engaged in working on readiness and compliance with directives.

The COVID-19 virus has confounded the medical professionals who have tried to mitigate its spread and predict its behavior.  With discipline and fortitude in following protective measures we can reduce the risk of spreading the virus and maintain our high level of readiness.  We are incredibly proud of the way the 136th is responding to all of these challenges. Be smart. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

Very respectfully,

   Keith Williams, Col, TXANG                                   LaTasha S. Mitchell, CMSgt, TXANG

Commander, 136th Airlift Wing                                   Command Chief, 136th Airlift Wing

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