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Iowa National Guard takes smaller role in fighting pandemic

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Sgt. Timothy Hesse Sr. and Sgt. Zachary Anderson, motor transport operators with the 1133rd Transportation Company, Iowa Army National Guard, deliver essential medical supplies as part of a statewide effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on March 24. According to 1st Lt. Kevin Waldron of the Iowa National Guard Office of Public Affairs, the medical supplies mission was completed on Aug. 4.

This year has been unprecedented in the state of Iowa. From a worldwide pandemic that continues to ravage the state, to a devastating derecho which left Marshall County and much of eastern Iowa devastated and lives damaged.

The year has continued to be unprecedented for the Iowa National Guard, according to First Lieutenant Kevin Waldron of the Iowa National Guard’s Office of Public Affairs.

Waldron said the number of Iowa National Guard service members who are helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic is about 100, but they are not working in the same scope as they were earlier in the pandemic. At the time of writing, that group of National Guard members is helping out at COVID-19 Test Iowa sites on federal orders. Their duties on those sites are traffic control and safety management, Waldron said.

He did not know for sure if any Marshalltown service members were taking part in the mission.

The lessened impact is partly due to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ call for the National Guard to help supply personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to Iowa hospitals struggling at the beginning of the pandemic. Those orders were completed in August, Waldron said.

“We have not been delivering medical supplies to a county emergency management departments since [Aug. 4],” Waldron said. “We also concluded our call center that we were doing COVID-19 mapping for. Since Sept. 30, we transitioned from that mission so I am under the understanding that it’s now the Iowa Department of Public Health that is conducting mapping.”

They have not been called into action again, he said, despite case numbers rising throughout the state and hospitals in some areas nearing capacity — which prompted Reynolds to impose a mask mandate and limit group gatherings.

This is one of three major events that has made the year unprecedented for the Iowa National Guard, Waldron said, along with the derecho and a large number of troops being deployed in the middle of the year.

“We have over 1,500 service members currently deployed to overseas locations, whether that’s SATCOM or AFRICOM,” Waldron said. “This has been the largest overseas deployment since 2010. It has been a busy year.”

The whirlwind year, though, is exactly what he said the National Guard is built to handle — the importance of conquering the unknown and thinking on the fly. The preparedness that comes with military training helped the National Guard make a big impact in helping the state work its way through one of its most impactful years of the decade — one filled with grief, upheaval and not knowing what’s next.

“We’re always ready for whatever comes our way,” Waldron said. “Regardless of what happens, whether it’s man-made or a natural disaster, the Iowa National Guard is prepared to assist Iowans and our federal missions regardless of what that entails.”

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Contact Noah Rohlfing at

nrohlfing@timesrepublican.com.

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