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NEWS | July 20, 2020

WVNG helps meet increased demand for testing, PPE

By Maj. Holli Nelson West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Almost 400 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are supporting the state’s COVID-19 response with testing and other missions.

As COVID-19 cases increase in areas throughout the state, the West Virginia Guard has been working with local health departments to respond to the higher demand for testing. Task Force CRE and Task Force Medical assisted at multiple COVID-19 testing lanes over the weekend in Berkeley, Monongalia and Jefferson Counties.

Last week, the Guard staffed COVID-19 testing lanes at Sharpe Hospital, the House Chambers and the Charleston Police Department, in addition to other missions. The weekend of July 11-12, almost 6,000 people were tested – a record high for the WVNG - with local health departments.

The Guard’s efforts to build up an in-state supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) was also a focus last week, as hospitals use more PPE. Guard members, working with the West Virginia Emergency Management Division, now have a 180-day supply of N-95 respirators, gloves and other PPE.

Cadets at the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy arrived to start class, using masks, social distancing and proper hygiene. More than 40 cadets are enrolled in the program, many of whom were sent home from the previous class at the beginning of the pandemic. An additional 14 cadets are enrolled in the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program. Cadets who complete the ChalleNGe Academy will graduate in December and can earn their high school diploma.

Also last week, the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston welcomed home remaining members who had been serving in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Kuwait. Nearly 130 Airmen from the Operations and Maintenance Groups were deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Base with C-130H aircraft as a part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The West Virginia National Guard also recognized the upcoming first anniversary of the death of Staff Sgt. William “Billy” Friese, who passed away last year in a non-combat incident while deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Friese was a light-wheeled mechanic with the 821st Engineer Company and had served in the West Virginia Army National Guard for more than 12 years.

“We can never forget the service or sacrifice of our brave Soldiers and Airmen, especially those who have given their lives in defense of our freedom,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the WVNG. “Billy is still dearly missed by everyone in our organization. We will continue to uphold the promise we made to take care of and support his family going forward. Our Gold Star Families mean everything to us, and we will honor Billy’s life and legacy through his memory.”

As of July 17, the WVNG has provided the following for the people of West Virginia:

  • Packaged and delivered 344,026 meals.
  • Received and shipped 8,963,392 pieces of PPE to all 55 counties.
  • Sanitized 615 first-responder vehicles.
  • Performed 28,124 COVID-19 tests.
  • Conducted COVID-19 prevention best practice training at 834 businesses, 102 long term care facilities or medical practices and for 4,807 civilians.
  • Produced 157,188 pieces of PPE including isolation gowns and sewn face coverings.
  • Conducted 16,357 voluntary COVID-19 mapping engagements.



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