LOS ANGELES – Sixty Soldiers assigned to California Army National Guard’s Joint Task Force 224 are assisting the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in Commerce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The humanitarian mission in Commerce has gone so well that 15 Soldiers with the 756th Transportation Company Detachment (TC Det.), 746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, in Moreno Valley, were reassigned to assist the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in Vernon May 8.
Susie Takayoshi, production warehouse manager of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, said when the stay-at-home order was issued, there was a decline in the number of volunteers at the food bank.
Guard Soldiers were sent to the food bank in Vernon to help prepare frozen food kits.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dion Gutierrez, a platoon sergeant, said his Soldiers set the expectation that they could make the requested number of frozen-food kits despite having less time to complete the task on the first day. The task demonstrated their commitment and motivation to complete the mission and support the community, Gutierrez said.
“We came close to meeting the goal on our first day, but we had to take a tour and watch a video first,” said Gutierrez. “We only worked for six hours, and we still built 59 pallets of frozen kits.”
Takayoshi said the Soldiers have been building kits so fast that they exceed their goals.
“The Soldiers are just amazing, and they are doing amazing work helping the community,” said Takayoshi. “Being the mom of a new Marine myself, I appreciate them!”
Gutierrez said he feels good about the work.
“I feel great as a whole – feeding families who need this food, it opened my eyes about what we’re doing here,” he said.
The Soldiers work in a large cooler room where they make kits of frozen chicken, fish, pork and hamburger. A pallet is made up of 56 kits, and the Soldiers have a daily goal of building 60 pallets.
At the two-and-a-half-hour mark on their second day of operations May 11, Gutierrez and his Soldiers had already built 25 pallets. By the end of the day’s shift, the team exceeded their daily goal by completing 61 pallets.
In a single day, the team’s effort led to more than 3,400 meal kits packed up and on their way to Californians who needed them.