ROYAL OAK, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard is helping a charitable food distribution network complete its mission despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michigan Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen spent part of August working at the Forgotten Harvest food bank in Royal Oak, helping sort, process and ship the 138,000 pounds of food the charity delivers to Detroit area charities six days per week.
The Michigan National Guard’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force consists of more than 100 Soldiers and Airmen, activated by the state to assist in efforts to respond, mitigate and control the COVID-19 pandemic throughout Michigan. The task force has worked at eight food warehouses across the state to ensure that charitable food operations continue without interruption.
“It feels good to be part of a team that is doing something to give people hope,” said Spc. Ralph Mitchell, one of nine Soldiers from the 1-182nd Field Artillery Regiment at the Olympia Armory in Detroit who were activated to support the COVID-19 JTF.
Mitchell graduated from his advanced individual training course as a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) mechanic in May. The mobilization for the COVID-19 JTF is the first of his military career.
“It feels good to be part of a team that is doing something to give people hope,” he said. “I enlisted to do more in my community and serve my country.”
Like most members of the National Guard, Mitchell is a member of the community – his civilian job is as an employee of Ford – who serves part-time in the Guard, ready to be called as needed. He was
activated for the COVID-19 JTF in August.
“Mitchell is a motivated troop. His work ethic is equally impressive on both the COVID-19 JTF and in the battalion,” said Sgt. 1st Class Darwin Brooks, a battalion master gunner in the 1-182nd and Mitchell’s supervisor. “He shows great leadership potential and is eager to put in a full day’s work because he knows it’s helping people.”
Tyrone McClendon, a supervisor at Forgotten Harvest, said the Guard personnel who worked at the warehouse made a big difference. “They amazed me with their output,” he said. “Not only have they nearly doubled our numbers, but they do a great job at cleaning up before leaving each day.”
Mitchell said working in a food warehouse wasn’t what he expected to be doing when he enlisted in the Michigan National Guard but he is glad he’s had the opportunity to contribute.
“Coming into the warehouse each day in uniform and representing the Michigan National Guard is a rewarding experience. The employees at Forgotten Harvest show us tremendous gratitude and respect. I am thankful to have the opportunity to deploy for such a worthy cause,” Mitchell said.