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Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard continues state support through re-opening

Oklahoma Air National Guardsmen from the 137th Special Operations Wing help to sort, box, palletize and prepare food for transport in support of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, April 24, 2020. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt activated 25 additional Guardsmen in Oklahoma City and another 25 in Tulsa to assist the regional food banks with packing and shipping of food products. Food banks across the State have seen an increase of as much as 60 percent in the need for food assistance. The food bank is just one operation of the Oklahoma National Guard’s overall mission in support of Oklahoma’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Kasey Phipps)

Oklahoma Air National Guardsmen from the 137th Special Operations Wing help to sort, box, palletize and prepare food for transport in support of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, April 24, 2020. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt activated 25 additional Guardsmen in Oklahoma City and another 25 in Tulsa to assist the regional food banks with packing and shipping of food products. Food banks across the State have seen an increase of as much as 60 percent in the need for food assistance. The food bank is just one operation of the Oklahoma National Guard’s overall mission in support of Oklahoma’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Kasey Phipps)

Airmen from the 138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, load boxes of food to be delivered at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 23, 2020. Twenty five Airmen from the 138th FW are working with the food bank to provide support including receiving, packing and transporting food, as well as completing inventories of food bank supplies. At the direction and authorization of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Guardsmen were activated to serve in various roles in support of the State's COVID-19 response (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle)

Airmen from the 138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, load boxes of food to be delivered at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 23, 2020. Twenty five Airmen from the 138th FW are working with the food bank to provide support including receiving, packing and transporting food, as well as completing inventories of food bank supplies. At the direction and authorization of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Guardsmen were activated to serve in various roles in support of the State's COVID-19 response (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle)

Oklahoma Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, left, the adjutant general for Oklahoma, packs produce bags with Oklahoma Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Luke Goodnight, right, a member of the 138th Fighter Wing, at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 29, 2020. Due to COVID-19, Guardsmen have been working daily to replace the vital volunteer force that usually pack the food until it is safe to have them return. At the direction of Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Guardsmen were activated to serve in various roles in support of the State's COVID-19 response including support to food banks. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle)

Oklahoma Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, left, the adjutant general for Oklahoma, packs produce bags with Oklahoma Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Luke Goodnight, right, a member of the 138th Fighter Wing, at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 29, 2020. Due to COVID-19, Guardsmen have been working daily to replace the vital volunteer force that usually pack the food until it is safe to have them return. At the direction of Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Guardsmen were activated to serve in various roles in support of the State's COVID-19 response including support to food banks. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle)

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.”