The COVID-19 pandemic has presented never-before-seen challenges to the State of Connecticut that require an equally unprecedented response from the state’s Military Department.
For the first time, every component of the Connecticut Military Department— the Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Connecticut State Militia— has come together in a combined effort to provide emergency relief during a statewide emergency.
Emergency relief has always been a part of domestic operations for both the Army and Air National Guard. However, the Militia, comprised of the Governor’s Foot and Horse Guards, has normally only been tasked with ceremonial duties in recent years. According to Army Col. (Ret.) Daniel Murphy, this changed in 2019 at the behest of Maj. Gen. Fran Evon, The Adjutant General of the Connecticut National Guard.
“The Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Evon, wanted the Foot Guard and Horse Guard to have tasks other than ceremonial duties—a support role,” said Murphy, Militia Brig. Gen. and Director of the New England Disaster Training Center. “One of the tasks was to be able to deploy the mobile hospital.”
The Militia began training to deploy mobile field hospitals in early 2019 and tested their deployment capabilities later that year. By the time COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, the Militia was ready to respond.
In April, members of the Militia constructed a 25-bed mobile field hospital outside of Middlesex Hospital to be used as a COVID-19 treatment facility. The Militia-led project, augmented by Army and Air National Guardsmen, was the third mobile field hospital set up by the Militia.
Army 2nd Lt Cameron Caporusso of the 192nd Engineer Battalion, thinks the collaborative efforts could be beneficial during state-wide emergencies.
“I think it’s great,” said Caporusso. “Honestly, I haven’t worked much with the other units in Connecticut. I think the more exposure people get to these different units, it builds a nice cohesive team throughout the state, especially while responding to this emergency.”
The project served as a training opportunity for members of the Air Guard, who had never set up a tent structure using an inflatable bladder like the one they worked on that day.
“We normally set-up Alaskan tents with metal purlins and arches, then we pull the canopy over the structure,” said Air Force Master Sgt. John Stevens, member of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron. “We’ve never done something like this before, so I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”
Stevens expects that the Connecticut Military Department may one day conduct joint training with all of its components to prepare for future emergencies.
“I foresee us working hand-in-hand with these guys to get something like this going, so that we have training on how to put up a structure like this,” said Stevens. “A week long training with them to train the rest of us, I think, would be a great thing.”
“They’re here to learn the process, so in the future, should this [mobile field hospital] have to go out again, you can do a mix of Militia, Army and Air Guard to do simultaneous missions,” said Murphy.