LAS VEGAS – Soldiers with the Nevada Army National Guard Task Force 17 began to run support operations at Las Vegas Cashman Field in response to COVID-19, Friday, Apr. 17, 2020.
“Our mission is to support the civilian personnel who are short-staffed here. We do this by helping manage logistics and run operational support for displaced people at this facility.” Said 1st Lt. Christopher Banford with the 240th Engineer Company.
Before Soldiers began to dawn all their protective gear and head down range, they went through a detailed block of instruction and N95 mask fit testing.
Mr. Rick Rosen with Team Rubicon briefly explains.
“The training they’re getting introduces them to what a blood-borne pathogen is and also what is an air-borne pathogen like COVID-19. In addition, they get educated on what the measures are to protect them from the different types of environments they can be exposed to. They also get instruction on the use of proper protective equipment.”
Rosen works with the incident management team and is no stranger to disaster relief efforts. He has helped manage incidents both nationally and internationally.
“Just like the Army, we have a posture of protection. If you look at the NBC with different MOPP levels, here we have the same thing. We go from green, to yellow, to red. Each color designates a different level of personal protection used.” He explained.
As an example, the green zone will require a Soldier to wear a N95 mask, gloves, eye protection and apron, while the red zone has the strictest requirements that involve dawning all the above, but adds head to toe coverings with a face shield. This protects the Soldier from any indirect contact with a displaced person who might have COVID-19 while working on site. Soldiers are required to maintain their 6 foot plus distance at all times and they are strictly there as support for operations.
There are also protocols in place for when personnel get ready to leave the facility and the strictest measures are taken to decontaminate all clothing before entering into the locker room and staff showers. For instance, Spc. Lawrence Jones with the 72nd Military Police Company will disinfect contract worker’s shoes before they are allowed to proceed to further decontamination stations.
The Cashman Field location has many moving parts, but the Las Vegas City Managers Office oversees all the departments that are responsible for the entire operation. The city requested 150 Soldiers and got their initial 60 upon start up.
Dr. Lisa Morris Hibbler is the Incident Commander and has worked with the city of Las Vegas for nearly 23 years.
“Our mission is to provide care to our homeless, especially those that have been exposed to COVID-19 and are in quarantine in one of our ISO units. We are also working with local hospitals so that we can be a relief valve to those individuals who would have otherwise been sent home to recover.” Hibbler said.
She expressed her gratitude in having the Nevada Army National Guard there to support the operation.
“This is a 24/7 operation and we really need those individuals who are trained and have those technical skills. We are extremely pleased to have the Guard here.”
Having served in the Army for 32 years himself, and being retired as a Command Sgt. Maj., Rosen commented on having Soldiers assist with operations on the ground.
“I think it’s a great idea to have the Guard here. It exposed them to a different type of mission that they’re normally not accustomed to. Most of the time they’re filling sand bags, moving people, or helping feed them. In this case here we have a pandemic so they’re going to learn about what that is and how all of us work together to handle it.”
This is not a usual mission, but these are certainly not conventional times in which we all live. This is the first time in Nevada Guard history that Soldiers have been called up to respond to an international pandemic in their own backyard. These are our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family working on the front lines in a time of national crisis. They have traded in their body armor for scrubs and have yet again answered their call to duty.