MARQUETTE, Mich. – First responders are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Michigan National Guard is helping in every way it can.
In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Soldiers are delivering supplies to the different county seats for distribution to those in need.
“We were making trips to Mackinac, Newbury, and multiple trips to Marquette, which is an hour up and back, so with the National Guard dropping the supplies off, it’s huge,” said Sgt. Sheila Peters with the Alger County Sheriff’s Department. “It makes it so much easier. We’re so very thankful.”
Peters, the deputy emergency manager for Alger County, said that before the National Guard arrived, someone had to always be on hand in case the supplies came in.
“The National Guard eliminates that. It’s more organized with the shipments being sent out,” said Peters. “We have a little more time to prep for it and be here when they come in. We can stay here and focus more on our stuff and we can distribute the supplies as they come in because there’s no rhyme or reason to how they’re coming.”
One of the reasons Peters and others are so thankful is because they are getting the personal protective equipment they need. They were running low, and the National Guard just started the supply runs from the U.P.
“Anywhere that one calls home is near and dear to their heart,” said Capt. Michael Anderson of the Michigan National Guard. “To be able to affect our local community, helping our first responders, means a lot to me, they are on the front lines every day.”
Anderson is the liaison between Task Force North, encompassing the entire Upper Peninsula, and the first responders. He said this mission is very fulfilling because it is one of the main reasons he joined the National Guard after serving in the Marines – to give back to his home community.
“When you’re able to interact with the civilian populace like this and to realize that they know you’re there for them is a very enlightening feeling for everybody,” said Anderson.
The U.P. is made up of 15 counties spread over 16,000 square miles. Anderson is in charge of the National Guard’s distribution of supplies and lets the Soldiers know what they are doing and where they are going each day. There are only six Soldiers in teams of two who deliver the supplies to the eastern, central and western U.P.
“I think it’s important because we’re always here. We’re always ready to answer the call and assist the first responders and local volunteers,” said Sgt. Adam Szabo. “We’re there to help with these efforts.”
Szabo is one of the six Soldiers making the supply runs from a distribution hub in Greenland to where they are needed. He and another Soldier deliver to the five most western counties in Michigan, and he has seen how supportive everyone has been.
“They’re really appreciative that we’re there to help them out when they’re too busy with handling other tasks throughout the day,” said Szabo.
A recent graduate of Northern Michigan University, Szabo is an automotive logistics specialist with the 1431st “Sappers” Combat Engineers in Calumet in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
“I never thought I would go to some of these places, but it makes you realize how the U.P. is really desolate in areas,” said Szabo. “They need the support, too, during these hard times, and once we started dropping off the supplies, you see how thankful they are. Once you get on ground, the importance of the mission actually sets in.”
Szabo wants to keep all his fellow “Yoopers” safe and let them know the National Guard is there for them.
“It honestly feels great, because being from the U.P. and being able to help out other ‘Yoopers’ and actually show a presence and let our community members feel that we are supporting them any way we can,” said Szabo. “The people we’ve been working with truly appreciate it and we appreciate helping out because they’ve been supporting us so much in every other aspect before this pandemic.”
Dropping supplies off may not seem like a lot, but when there is a scarcity of masks and hand sanitizers, that simple job means the world to the ones getting those supplies.