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NEWS | March 31, 2020

Iowa, Pa., Del. National Guard in thick of COVID-19 battle

By National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – Dozens of members of the Pennsylvania, Delaware and Iowa National Guard are helping respond to the COVID-19 threat, delivering medical supplies and helping locate and set up sites where patients can be treated should hospitals become overwhelmed.

More than 120 Soldiers and Airmen in the Iowa National Guard are supporting coronavirus response missions across the state. Members continue delivering vital medical personal protective equipment to 23 distribution sites.

Eight Soldiers from the 186th Military Police Company out of Camp Dodge delivered and assembled two tents to the Central Iowa VA Healthcare System in Des Moines for screening of people entering the hospital for COVID-19.

In Annville, Pa., 25 Pennsylvania National Guard members helped the Federal Emergency Management Agency unload equipment to establish a federal medical station at the Glen Mills School. The facility will be used to house non-coronavirus patients if regional hospitals become full.

The Soldiers are from the 103rd Engineer Battalion, which traces its origins to the Associators, constituted in 1747 in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin. They spent two days unloading trucks, unpacking boxes and setting up beds.

"We were one part of a team of teams coming together to support the local community," said Maj. Joseph D. Martinkis, commander of the 103rd Engineer Battalion. "Being able to work alongside these civilian authorities is part of the diverse skill set held by our National Guardsmen."

The Delaware National Guard, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the Philadelphia District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited sites in three Delaware counties that could be used as alternate care facilities. This would allow hospital staff to focus on the most critically ill patients.

"What we're trying to do is, as hospitals are dealing with (COVID-19) infected patients, we're making sure we have facilities for patients that still need care, but are free from infection," said Capt. Joseph Kupina, Delaware National Guard medical officer.

While DEMA is the lead agency in the state's response efforts, the DNG and Army Corps of Engineers have subject matter experts with decades of experience from the civilian sector.

"I've spent my entire career in public health, and the Army Public Health Center," said Kupina. "It's nice to know I can utilize all of my expertise to support this mission and make sure the medical needs of Delaware citizens are taken care of."

Col. Michael Wunn of the Iowa National Guard, Lt. Col. Keith Hickox of the Pennsylvania National Guard, and Capt. Bernie Kale of the Delaware National Guard contributed to this story.