Over the last five weeks, the Florida National Guard has mobilized more than 2,900 Soldiers and Airmen in support of COVID-19 operations. However, not all Florida Guardsmen currently on orders are providing support in their home state during this pandemic. Some are delivering assistance to communities more than 4,000 miles away.
Soldiers with the Florida National Guard’s 164th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade are currently stationed in Ansbach, Germany, in support of the European Deterrence Initiative and Operation Atlantic Resolve. The unit arrived at their new station in July 2019, but due to the global pandemic, their deployment has taken an unexpected turn.
In March, as the number of COVID-19 cases started rising in Germany, the Ansbach Commissary began to experience a significant increase in demand due to Soldiers, military families, and retirees in the region preparing for the closures and restrictions put in place to keep the community safe.
“The employees at the Ansbach Commissary have always done a fantastic job of meeting the needs of Soldiers and their families,” said Maj. Elliott Potter, the 164th ADA’s Judge Advocate. “However, as the local residents increased their purchases, the commissary was overwhelmed by the demand for food, hygiene items, and everything else imaginable.”
An email was distributed to all units stationed in the Ansbach area requesting assistance to restock the shelves after business hours to ensure military families would continue to have access to food and hygiene items. That’s when Soldiers of the 164th ADA stepped up to assist.
“Some of our Soldiers would leave the office around 1800 every day and head straight to the Commissary, where they would spend a few additional hours unpacking boxes of baby food and toilet paper, and restocking shelves” Potter said.
Since the request for support was made, Soldiers with the 164th ADA have contributed dozens of man hours to the efforts to keep the base’s Commissary stocked and operational.
In recognition of his Soldiers selfless service while mobilized overseas, Col. Sean T. Boyette, commander of the 164th ADA, presented Potter, Command Sgt. Maj. Theodore Morris and Staff Sgt. Cassandra Vieira with the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
“The brigade has really come together in the face of adversity and has not only met everyday mission requirements, but also provided an important service to military families in the surrounding community,” Morris said. “I am immensely proud of everything our Soldiers have been able to accomplish during this mobilization. They have done a fantastic job representing the Florida National Guard.”