HARTFORD, Conn. – Amid hurricane season and the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency response duties continue for members of the Connecticut Army and Air National Guard.
With the rate of new COVID-19 infections in Connecticut at a record low, the Connecticut Guard has been able to decrease the number of Guard members deployed in response to the pandemic. However, the Guard remains on high alert as members prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases.
Army 1st Lieutenant James Grindel, member of the Connecticut National Guard Unified Command, said small Guard teams built more than 241,000 COVID-19 sample collection kits that will be transferred to secure storage facilities for use if needed.
Connecticut has relied on the Guard’s ability to deliver and distribute emergency supplies throughout the pandemic. Now, the state is depending on the Guard’s logistical expertise once again during hurricane season.
On Aug. 4, Hurricane Isaias tore through Connecticut, leaving more than 700,000 homes without power and some residents without immediate access to clean water. The Guard collaborated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver more than 21,000 cases of water and military field rations, known as MRE or meals ready to eat, to Connecticut residents in the first few days after the storm.
“Throughout all of this, Guardsmen have had great attitudes and the work has been hugely impactful,” said Chief Master Sgt. Donald Liddell of the 103rd Logistic Readiness Squadron. “People are telling us that they couldn’t have done it without us, so the work is appreciated throughout the state.”
The Connecticut governor often calls the Guard to augment the services of other agencies during state emergencies. During Hurricane Isaias, the Guard provided members and equipment to help United Illuminating (UI) utility company clear storm debris from roads.
“We help overwhelmed municipalities or utility companies get areas and routes cleared,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Frates, emergency management superintendent for the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron. “What we give the governor is the capability to tap into the training and equipment that we have. We bring it into the neighborhoods and help get people back to where they were before an incident occurred.”
UI officials are grateful for the support they receive from the Guard during mass power outages, said UI's Mike Foley.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation,” said Foley. “This effort is really appreciated because these line crews can get in here quicker, energize the lines and people can turn their lights on sooner than later.”
Liddell said the Guard will continue to work with various agencies as Connecticut remains at a heightened risk for emergencies.
“We’ll be here as long as you need us and we’ll work as long as you need our help,” he said.