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NEWS | Dec. 31, 2020

Battling COVID-19 was among WVNG's many missions in 2020

By Edwin Wriston West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia National Guard accomplished a lot in 2020, including homeland and disaster response missions, deployments around the globe, and sustained support of the state's battle against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

"2020 has been a year like no other," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the WVNG. "Yet the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard have answered the call to not only meet but to exceed expectations, and to overcome the daunting challenges faced."

More than 700 Guard men and women served in the state's response to COVID-19 in what became the longest-running state active-duty mission in the WVNG's history. Whether delivering and creating personal protective equipment (PPE), providing testing, delivering meals, and taking the logistical lead on vaccine distribution, the Guard remained engaged on all fronts of the pandemic response throughout 2020.

Members of the WVNG continued to support security along the southwestern border, responded to flooding in multiple communities, fought wildfires in western states, stood up teams to support hurricane relief efforts, and deployed and welcomed home more than 900 service members from missions around the world.

Accomplishments of the WVNG in 2020 also included:

  • More than 1,460 members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard deployed, including to Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, and Guantanamo Bay. They also assisted with disaster relief in Puerto Rico.
  • The 130th Airlift Wing logged 2,674 hours of flight time on 1,662 sorties, hauling 4,809 tons of cargo and 6,494 passengers. The Air Force chose the wing to convert to eight C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft.
  • The 167th Airlift Wing logged nearly 4,600 hours of flight time on 1,200 sorties, delivering almost 13 million pounds of cargo and more than 7,500 passengers.
  • The Future Leaders Program (FLP) continued to grow. Over 570 cadets are enrolled in the FLP, with a 100% graduation rate for all 123 seniors. FLP contributed 877 service hours to communities, and 20 graduates enlisted in the National Guard and other military services.
  • The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) has graduated 4,743 West Virginia teens as of this year and provided 1,770 high school diplomas for graduating cadets.
  • The second National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, MCA South, began classes in Montgomery, doubling the number of at-risk students eligible for the program from across West Virginia while bringing 58 new jobs and more economic opportunity in the upper Kanawha Valley.
  • Camp Dawson's Training Center supported the training of approximately 110,885 personnel for the year.
  • The Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Battalion conducted 103 assessments and trained 8,599 people directly involved in protecting critical infrastructure and resources throughout the nation.
  • Counterdrug support aviation crews flew over 600 hours supporting 123 missions. They helped law enforcement eradicate 48,309 marijuana plants and seize 252.5 pounds of bulk marijuana, 13,565 grams of cocaine, 1423.6 grams of heroin, 502 grams of fentanyl, 5,603 grams of methamphetamine, 808 grams of crack cocaine, 1,847 illegal pills, and make 286 arrests.
  • The State Partnership Program office conducted more than 25 in-person and virtual engagements with partners in Peru and Qatar, despite travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

Most WVNG activities in 2020 involved responding to the pandemic, beginning in early March.

Some of the missions accomplished included:

  • Embedding with the West Virginia Department of Revenue and working with Gov. Jim Justice's office and other state agencies to plan and oversee the obligation of over $2.6 billion available to the state.
  • Training thousands of people in proper COVID-19 protection measures at businesses and medical and long-term care facilities; disinfecting facilities and first-responder vehicles; disinfecting and testing the fit of N95 masks.
  • Establishing two COVID-19 mobile testing laboratories.
  • Conducting and/or assisting with more than 90,000 COVID-19 tests at drive-thru sites.
  • Helping package and deliver more than 353,000 meals to those in need.
  • Deploying six regional epidemiology teams to help the state health department.
  • Conducting more than 97,600 voluntary COVID-19 mapping assignments to identify potential disease vector points and reduce community spread.
  • Partnering with West Virginia University to develop a model to monitor and analyze PPE supplies and medical capacity throughout the state.
  • Shipping more than 19 million PPE pieces to all 55 counties and building and distributing 609,500 COVID-19 test kits.
  • Producing more than 230,000 pieces of PPE, including sewn face coverings, respirator masks, reusable gowns, and face shields for distribution to medical facilities and front-line workers.
  • Installing West Virginia Board of Education WiFi hotspots at 20 armories around the state to enhance access for students and community members without broadband connections.
  • Heading up the Joint Interagency Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccinations, which brought together more than 20 state agencies and organizations to plan to receive and distribute vaccines.