Editor’s Note: A-roll with interviews from Wisconsin National Guard members serving in Green Bay at the Resch Center is available for download and use at: https://dvidshub.net/r/478msi
B-roll with imagery collected from the Wisconsin National Guard’s mission in Green Bay is available for download and use at: https://dvidshub.net/r/ylt95h
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Two teams of Citizen Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard have been working alongside Brown County Health and Human Services, Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to provide mobile COVID-19 testing capacity in Green Bay since April 30.
The Wisconsin National Guard has two teams supporting sites in Green Bay – one at the Resch Center and one at Casa ALBA Melanie, to help bring increased testing capacity to the region.
As of May 8, Guard personnel at the Resch Center, which began community-based testing May 4, had collected more than 2,500 specimens there, and another 500 at the Casa Alba site, where community-based testing began May 6.
“The unique thing about the Resch Center is that is offers a more climate controlled environment for our members who are working in their HAZMAT suits, which is important as we have seen a variety of weather already,” said Maj. Shawn Murphy, a physician’s assistant with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 135th Medical Company based in Waukesha, and the officer in charge of the team in Green Bay. “This location has been well-attended by the community, as they have been using an online scheduling app to help facilitate and streamline the process along with drive-up and walk-in testing as well.”
The 58 Soldiers and Airmen serving in Green Bay were training side by side until they stood up the second site at the Casa ALBA this week, Murphy said.
The teams were originally sent to Green Bay because of COVID-19 outbreaks at local meat packing plants, where local officials requested Guard teams to test workers and their families. The effort transitioned to community-based testing this week, where the teams continue testing symptomatic people from the general population.
“The greatest thing about being here is creating trust within the community,” said Murphy. “We live and work here, and we are here to support the citizens of Wisconsin. As a Citizen Soldier, the best thing is that we get a chance to serve the people of our state.”
Casa ALBA Melanie serves as a Hispanic resource center for the Green Bay area, and officials hope the site will help encourage additional testing.
“We have been limited by the need for translators and support, and we believe that the Casa ALBA location will allow us to serve even more people,” said Murphy.
For 1st Sgt. Tyler Gerrits, also with the 135th Medical Company, the Guard’s presence in Green Bay represents the full Citizen Soldier experience. He was on location at the Resch Center, but in a different role than his fellow counterparts in the Wisconsin National Guard. Gerrits is currently assisting in his civilian role as a liaison between the Green Bay Metro Fire Department and the National Guard as he serves his both his home community and in his military role.
“I think it’s really great to help out not only my city and county, but it is also great to be able to apply some of my skills and serve as a Citizen Soldier with my knowledge of the military and my civilian job,” said Gerrits. “When you bring them together, it’s interesting to work in both capacities at one time.”
Sgt. Branden Berg, an artilleryman with Battery A, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery, said he has relished the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the Air National Guard as well.
“It’s been interesting to see the Air National Guard and Army National Guard work cohesively to provide the necessary materials and resources available to coordinate an effective task force to further maximize the capabilities of testing throughout the state,” he said.
Senior Airman Sarah Dickmann, a medic with the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing agreed.
“I have been serving on the COVID-19 response since March 19,” she said. “Being a part of this mission means that I get to help the cause, and I get to help people who are affected by COVID-19.”
“Being part of a joint mission is always interesting,” Dickmann added. “I have done several trainings, but this is the first time I have served alongside the Army National Guard in a mission aside from the trainings I have done. We all do things differently, but it only makes it better as we all bring different perspectives to the mission.”
The Wisconsin National Guard currently has 15 COVID-19 specimen collection teams operating at sites across the state with plans to grow that capacity to 25 teams in the coming days. The Wisconsin National Guard simultaneously continues a number of other missions to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams of Guardsmen are supporting a state warehouse moving critical personal protective equipment around the state, serving as poll workers in the May 12 special election in the 7th Congressional District, staffing self-isolation facilities in Milwaukee and Madison, and assisting the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office with mortuary affairs support among other missions.