More N.C. Guardsmen activated in response to COVID-19

Sgt. Andrew Lomax, with Orange County Emergency Services, and the supply unit leader for the Orange County Branch of North Carolina Emergency Management, instructs Soldiers with the North Carolina National Guard’s 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, how they will be helping at a warehouse in Central North Carolina, April 20, 2020. The N.C. National Guard has been working with their State Emergency Response partners COVID-19 response since March 2020. Hundreds of N.C. Army and Air Guardsmen are mobilized and working with civilian authorities across the state. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
April 20, 2020

More than 500 North Carolina National Guardsmen will be reporting for duty across the state, April 20, 2019, as part of the overall response to COVID-19.

The newly activated Guardsmen bring the total to more than 800 Soldiers and Airmen who are supporting North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in their efforts to protect the citizens of North Carolina.

N.C. Guardsmen bring a variety of skills to the fight against COVID-19 including engineers, medical professionals, and logistical specialists.

“Warehouse distribution and commodities is our biggest number of folks on duty right now,” said Col. Wes Morrison, Chief of Staff, NCNG, and Joint Task Force Commander. “We are helping Health and Human Services and Emergency Management with warehouses that are ordering and receiving personal protective equipment for hospitals and local health preparedness coalitions.”

North Carolina National Guardsmen are no strangers to this kind of work; in some years N.C. Soldiers and Airmen are activated several times to support NCEM during hurricanes and winter storms.

Kirby Saunders, Emergency Management Coordinator for Orange County, N.C., has worked alongside the N.C. Guard during crisis many times in his 22 years with NCEM.

Saunders said the NCNG is an efficient, effective and organized force that local emergency managers can pull upon and have a solid, sound and consistent form of support in their local communities.

“What really makes the guard special here are our Citizen-Soldiers,” Saunders said. “They are guardsmen, but they’re also residents of N.C. so they feel a connection to the citizens they’re serving, just like we do in local emergency management.”

Corporal Chase Boozer, a fire direction specialist with the NCNG’s 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, was preparing for final exams at N.C. State University when he got the call to report for State Active Duty.

Boozer and a team from his unit are supporting the Orange County branch of NCEM by providing logistic support in the area.

He said initially he was a little nervous about leaving his house for the first time in a month, but that he knew it was for a good cause, and the switch from student to Soldier was easy knowing he would be helping people.

“I’m always expecting the unexpected, I know that as long as I’m working with the guard I have to be ready for anything that might come up,” Boozer said.

Like Boozer, the more than 800 Citizen-Soldiers now on State Active Duty will be working closely with N.C. Emergency Management, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, State Emergency Response Team partners, and federal and local agencies to protect the lives and property of N.C. citizens.