April 8, 2020
By Army Master Sgt. Matt Hecht , New Jersey National Guard
New Jersey National Guard Sets Up Field Medical Station at Meadowlands
Twenty-five New Jersey National Guard citizen soldiers and airmen answered the call for volunteers to set up a field medical station at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.
The Meadowlands site is the first of three New Jersey field medical stations opening in the state to alleviate pressure on local hospitals responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state has climbed steadily, Guard officials said, underscoring the need for the state's medical centers to expand their critical care capacity in anticipation of the peak.
"We hit the ground and started to work with the Department of Health, who have just done an amazing job working with the state police in getting this facility built and ready for patients," said Army Col. Stephen McKenzie, a physician assistant with the New Jersey Army National Guard and commander of Task Force Secaucus. "We're going to help establish the first pods of 25 beds of patients to actually start operating in this facility."
A joint effort involving the New Jersey All Hazard Incident Management Team, technical support from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Army Corps of Engineers, and support from the New Jersey National Guard to build the 250 beds and associated gear, officials said.
"We helped move cargo, set up beds, arranged medical equipment and provided security at the entrances and loading docks," said Army Spc. Michael Cavanagh, who serves with the New Jersey Army National Guard's Battery C, 3-112th Field Artillery.
"It makes me feel very proud to be helping the people who are suffering from this pandemic," Cavanagh said. "I wear this uniform so I can help my fellow citizens."
McKenzie said the ability to help their fellow citizens is what National Guard service is about. "The COVID pandemic is a war, and I'm proud as a National Guardsman to be a part of the defense of our nation," he said. "This is all about helping our citizens, helping out state, and getting us through this battle so we can come out at the end fit and well and ready to move forward with our lives."
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said this is the first of what will be at least three such field medical stations in the state, with Edison and Atlantic City to follow, expanding bed capacity by at least 1,000 beds in total. "We will need not only the capacity, but the great flexibility these sites will afford our bricks-and-mortar hospitals in the coming weeks," he added.
The next field medical stations being built include 500 beds in Central Jersey at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, and 250 beds at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
(Army Master Sgt. Matt Hecht is assigned to the New Jersey Army National Guard.)
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