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The fierce pace of crisis keeps National Guard away from home | National News

Shadadhi, Syria-In the heat of 108 degrees, far from the health care business in Luiziana, Army Colonel Scott DeSormo and his soldiers were at a dusty base near the northern border of Syria in Syria. About the Russian army in the region, helping rebels fight the radicals of the Islamic State and keeping an eye on it.

It is a great duty for soldiers. However, its deployment in the Middle East last November is only part of the ferocious pace of missions faced by members of the Luiziana National Guard and other civilian soldiers in the United States over the past 18 months.

Beyond overseas expansion, guards have been convened to combat protests against the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and racial injustice. For many, that means they are months away from their private work and have little time with their families. Guard leaders say the army is bright, but they are worried about fatigue and wondering how long US businesses can be without their long-absent workers.

Louisiana’s hometown, Sgt. First Class Bray Harris has been living in hotels near the Baton Rouge since March 2020, helping to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccines to residents. He was only able to return home to Lake Charles two hours away, including evacuating his mother in one of the storms that struck the state.

At a nearby camp borigard, Captain Michael Switzer was sleeping in his office. For the past 15 months, he and his soldiers have worked at virus testing sites that coordinate security, road traffic during storms, deliver emergency supplies, and distribute vaccines. For Father’s Day, his wife bought a crib and a 5-inch thick foam mattress instead of the air mattress he was using.

Since March 2020, national guards have been lurking from one national crisis to the next. Immediately after the pandemic, they were tapped to assist in conducting tests, building field hospitals, providing medical care, and ultimately vaccines.

But at the same time, like Louisiana, many faced record-breaking storms and hurricanes, taking weeks off from regular work to protect their communities during riots.

More than 26,000 guards have been sent to Washington, DC to secure the presidential inauguration.

“This year has been a special year for the National Guard,” said General Dan Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Is he worried about the setting of fatigue? “That’s what I was very worried about from the beginning.”

When he played the round, he said the guards were bright and told him, “Hey, this is what we signed up for.” However, there is growing concern throughout the state about returning the military to normal work and returning to important training schedules.

For DeSormo, last year began with a pandemic outbreak. His soldiers were deployed to help build a 2,000-bed hospital at the Memorial Convention Center in New Orleans. Others are spread throughout the state, setting up mobile test sites and providing test kits as needed.

Then, in early June, the tropical storm Cristobal landed in Louisiana, making it the first of six named storms and hurricanes that hit the state last year. And as the hurricane season neared its end, DeSormo’s 256th Infantry Brigade packed up and headed for Syria.

“It’s probably the most challenging two-year period you can find,” he told reporters who traveled to Shadady with Marine Commander Frank Mackenzie, the Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East. “But they were there at every stage of the road, so I think it really speaks to the dedication and professionalism of these kids.”

When Harris moved to the DoubleTree Hotel in Baton Rouge in March 2020 and was near the Logistics Post of the Guard, he was unaware that he would quit his job at the Louisiana Department of Transportation Development for 15 months. In the meantime, he checked two main properties and returned home to Lake Charles to save his mother in the event of a storm.

“It’s difficult to spend more than a year without truly breathtaking and truly unplugging, and each disaster or situation presents its own set of challenges,” said Hurricane Delta. Harris said he had one property flood in between. He didn’t have time to repair it so to sell it.

“My leaders supported me in every way, and whenever I needed to take my mother, they allowed me to do it. Later, whenever I needed to secure my property, they allowed me to do it. “

In most cases, the employer understood when the worker left to fulfill the guard’s responsibilities. For some, the duty of security guards provided an important salary as the company shrank or closed during the pandemic rampage. For others, especially those in the medical field, reporting on security guard duties was not a good option.

“We didn’t want to take advantage of people who already provide emergency services,” Switzer said. “Therefore, first responders are fighting this in a different position, and there were challenges based on not using first responders.”

He said those restrictions reduced the pool of their troops, which were aggravated by guards who were suddenly infected with COVID-19 or quarantined because they were exposed. The guards first focused on calling unemployed soldiers, he said, including some who worked on oil rigs.

“Many oilfield workers who were dismissed came in and worked until they were able to return to the field,” Switzer said.

“We were able to give them employment, so they not only helped them fulfill their mission, but also helped their families by finding jobs.”

Sgt. Major Verdis Walker was convened on a storm mission in April 2020 and was stationed at the Sheriff’s Office in the Parish of Boger. He lived there most of last year until he boarded an RV in central Louisiana and moved on to a pandemic mission. He currently lives in the Guard Barracks in Carville near Baton Rouge and is a Senior Enlistment Advisor to the Louisiana Guard’s COVID-19 Task Force.

He said the biggest challenge for the military was to maintain a positive attitude and balance among their security missions, their profession and their families.

For him, it is four north to his home and sheriff’s department so that he can take classes and maintain his weapon qualifications and other qualifications necessary for him to remain an officer. It means taking a vacation when you can drive for hours.

“Fortunately for me, I have a very military friendly sheriff in my town, and he is very supportive of military efforts,” Walker said. “He understands that people have to go and help when storms and things happen.”

So far, according to Hawkanson, stocks over the past year haven’t compromised retention rates.

The Army National Guard has achieved its final force target of 336,500 for the fiscal year beginning in October. He said the slight shortage of recruitment was offset by an increase in retention and an increase in the transition of active duty and Marines to guards.

Looking to the future, Mr. Hawkanson said that as more businesses began to reopen, security guards would increasingly need to go home for their work.

“Many of our soldiers and Air Force soldiers may have been unemployed or fired during that period, and many of them are asking them to return to work,” he says. , Deputy generals of all states should carefully manage the operations and training of their troops in the coming months.

“We asked many of them,” Hawkanson said. “Now the state wants to build combat readiness and focus on really returning to a civilian career, a military career, and a family balance.”

For Harris, that means returning to work in his transport department when his orders are completed. He is convinced that work is there whenever he returns, while his security mission continues.

“I knew I had a mission and my state was dependent on me. I never had the question,” How do you do this? ” I just got up, “he said.

“It was an opportunity to grow as a leader and really feel that I’m making a difference.”

Copyright 2021 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

The fierce pace of crisis keeps National Guard away from home | National News

Source link The fierce pace of crisis keeps National Guard away from home | National News

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