Wisconsin National Guard more active than ever over past year

The Wisconsin National Guard was at every turn of 2020.

Thousands of guard members responded to domestic missions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, elections, civil unrest and, now, the vaccine rollout.

Maj. Joe Trovato told FOX6 News that, in 2020, the state called the Wisconsin National Guard more than any other time in the organization's history.

"We’ve really prided ourselves on being that agile and adaptable force," Maj. Trovato said.

"The COVID-19 mobilization alone represents the single largest sustained domestic mobilization in our history."

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The first mission in the pandemic happened on March 15, 2020, when the guard helped transport cruise ship passengers who were exposed to COVID-19.

The National Guard has since worked alongside public health officials to establish long-term COVID-19 testing sites.

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Lt. Col. Josephine Daniels, operations branch chief, told FOX6 the National Guard also assisted as poll workers during four state elections as the pandemic caused a shortage of volunteers.

"These past 12 months have been the most active 12 months we’ve had," said Lt. Col. Daniels. "We sat down with the Wisconsin Elections Commission and they described where the need was."

Wisconsin National Guard operates a COVID-19 testing site

As summer rolled in, the death of George Floyd in police custody sparked nationwide protests and demonstrations. All the while COVID-19 cases were rising. The guard continued testing.

"It’s been an interesting time," Staff Sgt. Brent Sliva said. "When we had a lot of outbreaks it did get a little stressful…we always have our rest cycles that we can fall back on."

Staff Sgt. Sliva said testing for the virus somedays felt surreal. On those long days of testing, he said "thank yous" from the public went a long way: "Doing that type of stuff definitely caught me a few times."

Wisconsin National Guard deployed to Kenosha County in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020

In August, the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer once again sparked protests and unrest. More than 2,000 guard members responded to Kenosha County.

The guard was once again called protests and unrest in October, deploying to Wauwatosa in anticipation of a charging decision against a former police officer in a fatal shooting.

"I have tremendous respect for our service members and how very resilient they are," Lt. Col. Daniels said.

Wisconsin National Guard troops deployed to Wauwatosa in October 2020

The need for their service at home did not stop soldiers and airmen from conducting their training, overseas deployments, or continue their COVID-19 response.

"Whatever 2021 brings for us I can assure you the National Guard is ready," said Lt. Col. Daniels.

Already in 2021, members of the guard were once again mobilized to Kenosha in January in anticipation of a charging decision in the Jacob Blake shooting case.

Wisconsin National Guard operates a COVID-19 testing site

On Jan. 11, approximately 500 troops mobilized to assist Capitol police in Madison to support safety and security efforts. And two days later, more than 550 troops began mobilizing to support security efforts at the inauguration in Washington D.C; they joined approximately 25,000 troops from every state and territory.

At this time, the Wisconsin National Guard is currently assisting in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, proving true to their motto -- always ready, always there.

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