NEWS | April 3, 2020

Activated Hawaii National Guardsmen Ready for COVID-19 Response

By 2nd Lt. Anyah Peatross State of Hawaii, Department of Defense, Public Affairs Office

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- The rise in positive COVID-19 cases in Hawaii has prompted the partial activation of the Hawaii National Guard to stand ready to lend their support to their community.

Airmen with Medical Detachment 1 (Med Det 1), Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) monitored guardsmen on State Active Duty orders (SAD) during an unprecedented health crisis carrying out daily temperature screenings and health surveys.

On March 23, Soldiers with the Hawaii Army National Guard reported for their first day of duty where they received a medical screening from the comfort of their personal vehicles.

“Our guardsmen were activated to help with the state response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Air Force Capt. Jeremy Wong, all-hazards triage response chief with Med Det 1 and ER trauma nurse at Queens Medical Center. “Our job is to make sure that they’re gonna be healthy and remain healthy for the duration of their deployment.”

Soldiers completed a health survey disclosing their age, medical history, and if they had traveled recently. They were also screened for COVID-19 symptoms which can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath appearing in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

The information collected from the medical screenings was used to establish a baseline of those Soldiers who may be at a higher risk for exposure and infection now sequestering.

Currently, a vaccine is not available for COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Airman First Class Jolene Chun, a medical technician with Med Det 1 and as a civilian, a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), expressed the importance of stopping the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, remembering to wash hands often, and looking out for new CDC updates.

“If we’re all monitoring each other and the Soldiers that we’re looking out for,” said Chun. “We could quickly isolate any incident that could happen if it were to get worse.”

Although isolated from the general public, Soldiers are allowed limited interaction with visiting relatives for the purpose of receiving care packages and other goods. While on mission they continue to maintain their mental and physical well-being.

Army Sgt. Shane Seggar, Troop B, 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment, is among fellow Soldiers that are training and preparing for the order that calls them into action.

“It’s been good for us. It’s given us a chance to train our guys on stuff we don’t have time to do during IDT (drill weekends),” said Seggar. “We’re teaching classes on Calvary skills. Doing physical training twice a day. They’re all excited to be able to serve their community. That’s why most of these guys signed up and when we get called up, we’ll be ready to go.”

Seggar explained that daily screenings help them keep track of their health and lets them know that they haven’t contracted the virus from the community or each other.

Senior Airman Nicklaus Young, a medical technician with Med Det 1 came on SAD orders temporarily leaving his post as an emergency room technician at Queens Medical Center. He has experienced the influx of people wanting COVID-19 testing, the need for more medical supplies, and the trauma of day-to-day medical patients.

“It is hard because we do run short and it is tough that I am not able to help them,” said Young. “Being in the guard, I do have a duty right now, for my fellow Soldiers and Airmen, doing their screenings making sure they’re fit to fight! And with that, I am relieved to know that I am (still) helping my community in this way.”