FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) - Before and after the election, the military has been focused on their job of defending our country while also stepping in to help with the coronavirus pandemic, including a rollout of a future COVID-19 vaccine.
The Sgt. Major of the Army, Michael Grinston - on a recent tour on Fort Benning - talked to News Leader 9 about how the COVID-19 impacts all of us, including soldiers, but they have an obligation to stay ready and protect the nation, in more ways than one.
“We all took a pause but we couldn’t do that forever...then we started helping our nation, so we sent active duty soldiers up to NYC and Washington to help out with hospitals,” Sgt. Major of the Army Michael Grinston said.
These soldiers face an invisible army on an unusual battlefield. One example is more than 1,000 Indiana national guardsmen have been called to duty in the battle against the coronavirus, recently getting training for that.
“How to protect themselves, how to protect others, and generally just how to help, how do we help this fatigued staff stop the spread of the infectious virus inside of these facilities, because this is our most vulnerable population,” Indiana national guard adjutant general BG Dale Lyles said.
They will work in more than a hundred long term care facilities that need the most critical help.
Indiana National Guard soldier Raymond Bazan said, “Just more manpower. We’re going to be conducting temperature checks for visitors, ensuring that we have proper protection here for everybody. And just whatever that care facility needs, we’re going to be helping with.”
Meantime, officials with the Department of Health and Human Services says the military’s role is more organizational, not direct distribution of a COVID vaccine. That includes boxing more than one billion needles and syringes into vaccine kits.
“We’re trying to plan for how much dry ice do we need, how many band aids do we need,” said Paul Mango from the Dept. of Health & Human Services.
And while on Fort Benning, the Sgt. Major of the Army says they’re screening and testing soldiers efficiently to be able to train and do their jobs, amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re kinda leading the nation on how can you do things safely in a controlled environment,” SMA Grinston added.
Another top leader, four-star Army General Gus Perna is co-leading Operation Warp Speed - the federal government’s plan to distribute a vaccine with initial doses available by January 2021.