GRAFTON, Wis. – A team of six Wisconsin National Guard medics reported to a senior living facility March 21 to augment staff there during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team of four Citizen-Soldiers and two Airmen will be in place for approximately three days while the facility works to identify a long-term staffing solution.
The Wisconsin National Guard received the request for assistance after the facility reported its first COVID-19 death as well as additional confirmed cases among staff and residents there.
This is an example of how the Wisconsin National Guard fulfills one of its core missions of serving the local communities its Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen call home while helping their neighbors and fellow citizens.
“I think this is why we joined the military, and why we’re part of the National Guard,” said Capt. Heather Schaller, a nurse assigned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, who is the officer in charge of the mission in Grafton. “A lot of citizens don’t know that the National Guard does stuff like this, so that is kind of an eye-opener too.”
Schaller, who is also a nurse in her civilian occupation at a Milwaukee hospital, said this is just another example of how the Guard is here to serve Wisconsin communities during times of need. She said that while she knows she also fills a critical role in her civilian profession, she can be of great assistance in other areas when she puts on her uniform and fulfills her duties in the National Guard.
“It’s cool that my job could give me up in order to do something like this and support the National Guard as well,” she said.
Schaller said she and her team are honored to be a part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s rewarding, and it’s the reason why I put on the uniform, and why I joined the Guard,” she said. “I didn’t join to put on the uniform and go to drill every weekend. Now it’s something where I can actually do something for the community.”
With personal protective equipment (PPE) at a premium, the Wisconsin National Guard personnel dispatched to the facility are using their own military-provided PPE. That allows Guard members to use the equipment they are familiar with while preserving resources for health care workers and patients.
Wisconsin National Guard troops previously assisted with the state’s COVID-19 response by transporting a group of people to their homes after they were stuck on a cruise ship with people with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Wisconsin residents returned on two flights into Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Camp Douglas.
The more than 300 Wisconsin National Guard troops mobilized to state active duty continue to work with state agencies, preparing for potential missions that could include collecting specimens at mobile testing sites, transporting supplies or equipment, logistics support, and additional medical support.