Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard continues state support through re-opening
By Tech. Sgt. Kasey Phipps , 137th Special Operations Wing
/ Published May 11, 2020
Oklahoma City --
As Oklahoma’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19 progresses, so does the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard’s mission.
As of May 6, 2020, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt activated 360 Guardsmen to assist their fellow Oklahomans, alongside state agencies such as the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Regional Food Banks.
“Regarding the COVID-19 response, the Oklahoma National Guard is basically responding to all facets of the response for the State,” said Col. Robert Walter, Oklahoma National Guard joint task force commander. “We're helping in pretty much every area that we can, so we'll continue to do that and continue to support Oklahomans as required and at the Governor’s behest.”
Army and Air National Guardsmen carry out seven main missions: assisting the State’s Strategic National Stockpile, decontaminating long term healthcare facilities, working at regional food banks, reinforcing Department of Health points of dispensing (PODs), supporting the response of the Guard at the Joint Task Force, COVID-19 contact tracing, and helping with the gathering and transportation of COVID-19 tests.
There are 19 Air and Army Guardsmen within the Joint Task Force and Governor’s State Task Force, who help gather information and data from the State and make decisions for state-wide support based off of that data.
Sixty-one Army Guardsmen from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team work at the State’s Strategic National Stockpile, supporting the 11 identified COVID-19 regional health administration locations, and help conduct contact tracing.
Fifty Army Guardsmen from the 45th Field Artillery Brigade are assisting with contact tracing; and 79 Air Guardsmen — 40 from the 137th Special Operations Wing in Oklahoma City and 39 from the 138th Fighter Wing in Tulsa, Oklahoma — are supporting contact tracing, regional food banks and other tasks as needed.
The largest contingent comes from the 90th Troop Command (90th TC) with 151 Army National Guardsmen assisting the 11 identified COVID-19 regional health administration locations with testing, reinforcing the Health Department’s temporary PODs, disinfecting long term healthcare facilities, and supporting contact tracing.
So far, the 90th TC alone has driven more than 100,000 miles; delivered more than 24,000 samples for COVID-19 tests at labs in Stillwater, Oklahoma and Denton, Texas; prepared nearly 250,000 units of personal protective equipment for delivery; and made more than 500 tracing calls within all 77 counties in Oklahoma.
“We've expanded from where we were,” explained Walter. “Originally we didn’t have that many on, but now we're up to 360 Soldiers and Airmen on duty right now. They’re on duty through May 31, unless the Governor chooses to extend them.”
Since Oklahoma began Phase 1 of its “Open Up and Recover Safely” Plan on April 24, with a goal of beginning Phase 2 on May 15, the Guard continues to discuss its ongoing support of fellow Oklahomans.
“Right now, we're supporting through the end of the month and could be extended,” said Walters. “That will be the Governor's call, depending on what the need is for Oklahoma. That drives what our response will be … We’re prepared to stay as long as required to make sure that all Oklahoma's are taken care of.”