Barnestormers awarded Army Achievement Medals for Task Force Powderhorn

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Camille Lienau
  • 104th Fighter Wing

WESTFIELD, MA -- Fifty four Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing were awarded the Army Achievement Medal for their work assisting the commonwealth of Massachusetts during Task Force Powderhorn at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, May 14, 2022.

The Army Achievement Medal is a military decoration recognizing outstanding achievement or meritorious service of a military member.

From Oct. 2021 through March 2022, Massachusetts was hit hard by the omicron variant of coronavirus with December and January being the months with the highest average cases. During this time many Barnestormers worked in hospitals, medical facilities and dialysis centers throughout Massachusetts which were short staffed and highly impacted by the virus.

Airmen from various shops and backgrounds provided non-clinical support to these facilities, and were tasked with duties such as transporting patients and supporting security.

Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Moriarty, 104FW Operations Group first sergeant, planned the ceremony which required coordination with several different offices on base.

“I coordinated with the task force command team to recognize our members on base during May drill,” said Moriarty. “We want this ceremony to highlight the accomplishments and recognize the individuals.”

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Donnelly, TF Powderhorn senior leader, oversaw hundreds of Army and Air National Guard personnel during the mission and handed out awards during the ceremony.

“At the beginning of this mission, the hospitals didn’t know what to do with us, as most service members were coming from non-medical backgrounds,” said Donnelly. “I think their perception was we were all going to be tough and a little hard to work with. What they discovered and told us repeatedly was that they could not believe how compassionate our Airmen and Soldiers are. The level of care that we provided patients was incredible,” he said.

Guard members supported more than 60 acute care hospitals and 13 ambulance service providers across all five of the Commonwealth's regions during TF Powderhorn. Lt. Col. Anna Barrows, 104FW chief nurse, worked in Massachusetts school districts conducting covid testing for preschool through high school aged children during the mission.

“The beauty of the National Guard is that it holds a diverse portfolio of resources ready to respond to our Nation and State's call, whatever that call may be,” said Barrows. “This versatility and diverse skill set makes us a natural choice, particularly when civilian resources fall short, such as in this case.”

Brig. Gen. Virginia Gaglio, Chief of Staff and Air Component Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, addressed Barnestormers at the ceremony and recognized several for outstanding performance.

“Coming into this mission you brought not only your uniform and leadership but also your professionalism,” said Gaglio. “People do not forget that. Thank you so much for what you did.”

The National Guard is the first military responder to support civil authorities during states emergencies. While hospitals were facing critical staffing shortages, Airmen and Soldiers assistance was essential in ensuring medical facilities continued to provide quality care to patients.

“Having worked hand-in-hand with Army counterparts, my hope is that in the future we will continue to be tasked for joint missions,” said Moriarty. “It is a great opportunity for career broadening and forming strong relationships with our Army counterparts.”