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Wisconsin National Guard support their own communities

by Spc. Emma Anderson

In the course of two weeks, approximately 350 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been activated to be prepared for missions in support of the state’s response to COVID-19. As fear of the unprecedented state of the country has grown, rumors and speculation on the guard’s role caused waves of uncertainty to ripple across Wisconsin in reflection of this new mobilization. However, the dual mission of the Wisconsin National Guard includes focusing on the safety of the nation as well as the safety of individuals who soldiers and airmen call colleagues, neighbors, and friends.

“The National Guard is making a positive impact on the community due to the humanitarian nature of the mission itself,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Steffens, a platoon sergeant with Medford’s 273rd Engineer Company. “Being guard soldiers from the state of Wisconsin, we are always ready, and we are always willing. If you think about the two primary missions of the National Guard, there’s the federal mission to defend the Constitution, and then there’s the domestic operation to help the communities from which we come from.”

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard live in every county in Wisconsin and stand ready to serve at home. This unique aspect of the National Guard makes it an ideal and ready resource to assist throughout the state during an emergency.

Spc. Blanca Blanco, a combat medic with the 135th Medical Company out of Waukesha, expounds on how the National Guard is simply supporting the local community.

“To be a citizen-soldier means to be there for the community as much as I can as a civilian, but then support where civilian efforts need help as a soldier,” Blanco said.

Blanco is currently a student at the Milwaukee Area Technical College and is set to graduate with her paramedic license in December. She is one of many full-time students who serve in the Wisconsin National Guard. Even with the difficulties that have arisen for students, she has stepped up and is serving her community.

Combat medics Spc. Fidencio Lopez Rosales and Pfc. Jared Logsdon are also full-time students. They both study at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and they were both activated for state active duty as part of the Wisconsin National Guard’s response to COVID-19.

Lopez Rosales, who is currently studying elementary education, believes in the importance of serving the people that mean the most to you.

“I feel a part of something bigger than myself,” Lopez Rosales said. “I’m working out there for people that I care about, for people in my community, and for people I have spent time with, that I would do anything for.”

The Wisconsin National Guard does not only consist of students, but of familiar faces that work a variety of jobs throughout the state including firefighters, paramedics, TSA personnel, pharmaceutical technicians and teachers.

As soldiers don protective gear or practice safety precautions while training to potentially interact with individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s important for the people of Wisconsin to remember who is underneath the suit, behind the mask, and in the uniform. Neighbors who love the Green Bay Packers, know 32 degrees is not cold, live for a Friday fish fry and who are serving to make their home a safer place.

Maj. Angela Becker-Bradley, commander of the 135th and mission executive officer of Task-Force Medical, believes that being a citizen-soldier means using your skills to better the lives of others.

“The capacity to serve and wear this uniform is an honor,” Becker-Bradley said. “I also think that if I have a skillset that can be of great use to the citizens of Wisconsin and the nation, then I should use that skillset to make things better for the greater good.”