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NEWS | April 6, 2020

Michigan National Guard colonel protects those who serve

By Capt. Andrew Layton Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. – “To me, this is what we do. We’re here to help our fellow Michiganders when the governor calls us, and this is that time.”

For Col. Lavetta Bennett, chief of staff for the Michigan Army National Guard, her organization’s role during times of crisis is clear. With a background in medical services administration, she has witnessed the lifesaving capability of the Michigan National Guard’s response many times, from distributing water in Flint in 2016 to assisting in the Upper Peninsula after devastating floods in 2018.

However, Bennett says the Michigan National Guard’s current response to the COVID-19 pandemic is different from anything she’s seen.

“COVID-19 is one of those unique challenges because it affects everybody,” she says. “You may have a hurricane that affects this state or another or this section of a town or another, but that’s the big difference – COVID-19 affects all of us at the same time.”

Since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the call-up of the Michigan National Guard March 18, Guard members have provided logistics aid for medical equipment, medical screening, planning and construction of alternate care facilities.

Bennett says her experience in the Medical Service Corps has provided her with tools to make a difference, ensuring the men and women carrying out these missions are protected from the coronavirus before they go into Michigan communities.

“I always keep open lines of communication, so even now I’m in touch with our medical team, offering ideas for things they may not have looked at,” says Bennett. “We are working to make sure we have the same standards in place for all of our Soldiers – even those who may be working in different environments to perform their mission.”

Bennett said the Michigan National Guard is doing all it can to protect Guard members, their families, and the communities they serve from the risk of COVID-19 infection. Soldiers and Airmen must report through a process called the Joint Reception Staging Onward Integration (JRSOI), which includes medical screening, before missions are assigned.

“The message that everyone is briefed with comes down to protecting yourself, protecting your family, and protecting our mission,” she says. “People are our most valuable resource, so we need to make sure we follow the guidance that has been given to us by the governor’s office, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other agencies.”

The list of precautions does not stop there.

“When Soldiers are driving to a site, we’re making sure that it’s only a certain number of people in a vehicle; at our buildings now, we’re making sure that when we enter, everyone is washing their hands, and we’re disinfecting the buildings often using bleach and wipes,” she says. “At the processing events, for example, we’re also using caution tape on the floor to make sure Soldiers are maintaining that safe distance of 6 feet or more.”

Bennett says the National Guard’s commitment to protect its members while also providing aid to fellow Michiganders meshes seamlessly with her own zeal for taking care of others.

“I enlisted as an operating room technician and then commissioned into the Medical Service Corps, so this type of service has been my passion throughout my entire career,” says Bennett. “I’m one of those people who just likes to stay involved.”



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