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Wisconsin Guard highlights 2-year COVID response mission

  • Published
  • By Vaughn R. Larson,
  • Department of Military Affairs

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs took a few minutes March 10 to commemorate its two-year effort supporting the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not ‘mission complete,’ but we’re getting close,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general and the man in charge of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), which includes the Wisconsin National Guard, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) and the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC). “And the reason we’ve done so well in the last two years is largely because of all of you.”

A few DMA employees, state and military, were awarded the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs Meritorious Service Medal. Several others received the adjutant general’s challenge coin to recognize their efforts over the past two years. One Guard officer received the Army Meritorious Service Medal. Another 1,150 Wisconsin National Guard troops will receive the Armed Forces Service Medal for engaging in “significant activity” for which no other campaign or service medal is authorized.

Knapp struck an optimistic tone, acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic has taken quite a toll but has also produced some positive outcomes.

“One of them is, we’ve really gotten a lot closer as an organization — including across DMA,” Knapp said. “I know that we have a lot better relationships between [the Wisconsin National Guard], WEM, OEC and all the other parts of DMA.”

Greg Engle, acting administrator for WEM, agreed.

“I am always impressed by their professionalism and their duty and dedication,” Engle said of the Wisconsin National Guard members assigned to state active duty for the COVID response mission. “As Maj. Gen. Knapp mentioned, the partnership is very, very strong. The collaboration between WEM and the Guard is stronger now than at any time in the 10 years I have been here.”

More than 1,400 troops were mobilized in the spring of 2020 to support the state’s fight against the spread of COVID-19. Missions included COVID testing, staffing a state call center, assisting county medical examiners, staffing self-isolation facilities and assisting at a senior living facility. Guard members also distributed personal protective equipment to medical facilities across the state.

More recently, the Wisconsin National Guard has helped distribute and administer COVID vaccines. More than 200 Wisconsin Guard members have completed training to serve as certified nursing assistants at facilities struggling with staff shortages.