Oklahoma Guardsmen support state’s COVID-19 response in Tulsa

Oklahoma National Guardsmen Col. Chris Chomosh (left) and Maj. Greg McGowan (right) Joint Operation Command Liaisons, review operation information at the Emergency Operations Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 17, 2020. At the EOC, Chomosh and McGowan are constantly in communications with the Joint Operations Center located in Oklahoma City, as well as with Guardsmen who are on the ground in the Tulsa area, ensuring a proper flow of information to maximize mission capability.(Oklahoma Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle)

Tulsa, Okla. – Behind the scenes of the COVID-19 response across Oklahoma lays emergency operation centers consisting of numerous city and state officials. In Tulsa, this includes the Tulsa Health Department, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, the Oklahoma National Guard and more.

Their mission is to coordinate the response effort with various agencies in Tulsa County to assure they are meeting Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s goals for the State response and avoiding duplication of effort.

Working as Joint Operations Command liaisons for the Oklahoma National Guard are Oklahoma Army National Guardsman, Col. Chris Chomosh, and Oklahoma Air National Guardsman, Maj. Greg McGowan. They are in constant communication with the Oklahoma National Guard’s Joint Operations Center (JOC) in Oklahoma City, as well as the Guardsmen who are on the ground in the Tulsa area, ensuring a proper flow of information to maximize mission capability.

“Every situation is different, but we’ve done it before and there are similarities,” McGowan said. “The biggest thing right now is getting word to the JOC about what missions are in the works here so they can automatically start planning who will be responding [to a particular mission] when it comes down.”

Outside of their military careers, Chomosh and McGowan are both full time police officers with the Tulsa Police Department. With a combined total of 55 years in the military and 47 years in law enforcement, they have extensive experience working emergency support during numerous major events including Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, the May 3, 1999, tornado, the May 20, 2013, as well as multiple floods over the last three decades. During these times, they have worked on the ground during support missions, as commanding officers and JOC liaisons, as well as working as members of the incident management team with the police department.

“That experience allows you to know and understand how information flows,” Chomosh explained. “[We are] familiar with what they do and probably don’t know, as well as what they might need for the next operation.”

Time spent responding to missions like these often means time spent away from families and full time jobs that might rely on you to be there.

“What I’ve discovered after 31 years of doing this is that you and a supportive employer can make all the difference,” Chomosh explained. “The Tulsa Police Department has never said no when the mission calls. They are very supportive, and a supportive civilian employer is key.”

Working for the Tulsa P.D. has provided them with a flexible work environment, allowing them to have successful military careers, as well as helping enhance interoperability when working alongside city and state agencies during emergencies like these.

“We have been around for a while, so we know where we need to go to get certain information,” McGowan said. “We have already built that relationship because we work with them on a daily basis, and the same goes with the fire department.”

Chomosh added that the majority of the work they are doing is behind the scenes operations that help the mission run a little smoother, which is a benefit to everyone involved.

At the direction of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma National Guard currently has 260 Guardsmen activated to support the State’s response to COVID-19.