Kansas National Guard stands up Joint Task Force
By Staff Sgt. Dakota Helvie | Kansas Adjutant Generals Department May 4, 2020
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Soldiers and Airmen of the Kansas National Guard are supporting the COVID-19 response through the Joint Task Force Ready Guardian at the Armed Force Reserve Center in Topeka.
The JTF Ready Guardian is a historic event for the Kansas National Guard. While Guard members are routinely called upon to help with domestic operations during natural disasters, this is the first response of this magnitude that has required the activation of a joint task force.
.Joint Task Force Ready provides command and control, mission execution and personnel management with the Joint Operations Center as part of the COVID-19 response. Mission requests from the county are assigned through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.
"There is a large cell of civilians that are working behind the scenes to manage our operations," explained Col. Michelle Hannah, task force commander. "They receive a request from the county through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, analyze the request and figure out what entity, what partner, can best fit the requirement – and if it's the National Guard, then they send the mission request through what we call the Joint Operations Center."
The Joint Operations Center establishes the operational guidelines to complete the missions sent down to the JTF. It enables the task force to have the necessary equipment, contacts and workforce to achieve the mission. The JOC works with the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to assess the needs of the communities when local authorities request assistance and plan missions for the JTF.
Kansas National Guard members have answered the call to support their communities on a local and state level.
"That's the power of the National Guard," said Brig. Gen. Anthony Mohatt, assistant adjutant general - Army. "When a time of need is identified by the governor and by the local county managers, they're there because they live in the community and they respond to local disasters within the community."
Missions conducted across the state include distributing food, expanding COVID-19 testing and transportation.
The JTF is supporting local food banks such as Harvesters to help distribute donated food to Kansans. The medical missions are not only conducting screening at drive-thru sites but also handling the basic disease investigation.
"We're using Kansas Army and Air Guard Guardsmen to help augment the county health centers to conduct the COVID testing," said Maj. James Marshall, health services human resource officer, Kansas Medical Detachment. "Once that is complete, we have a carrier mission that will go to the different sites, collect the samples and bring them back here to the state lab."
While parts of the nation and Kansas are under stay-at-home orders, Guard men and women are ensuring vital missions are completed, with safety a priority. The JTF is taking extra precautions to keep Guard members safe, observing social distancing guidelines and making sure they have personal protective equipment.
As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of the people of Kansas, the Kansas National Guard stands ready to assist.
"Our Kansas National Guardsmen – both Army and Air – when called upon, have always been ready to help our fellow Kansans during times of need," said Col. Chris Ioder, assistant adjutant general - Air. "Helping our Kansas community during this crisis is what makes the Kansas National Guard truly unique. I am proud of our Soldiers and Airmen in answering this call."
Added Hannah: "We're really supporting our neighbors and our families at home in times of crisis like these."
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