By Perry Beeman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
The Iowa National Guard’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the August derecho brought the most diverse mobilization since the floods of 2008, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Corell told a joint session of the Iowa Legislature Thursday.
“Not since the floods of 2008 has the Iowa National Guard played such a diverse role in coming to the aid of Iowans during their time of need,” Corell, the adjutant general, said in his annual Condition of the Guard address at the Capitol. “When a disaster strikes, we are called upon to ensure our neighbors, our towns, our families and friends recover as quickly as possible.”
The Guard helped distribute personal protective equipment as the pandemic spread across Iowans in the spring and delivered samples to laboratories, and provided operations and management advice at 12 Test Iowa sites. Soldiers and airmen logged miles equivalent to 17 trips around Earth without serious injuries or incidents, Corell said.
Guard members also made thousands of phone calls to assist in contact tracing related to coronavirus cases. They helped with a patient transfer hotline as hospitals worked to manage caseloads during peaks in COVID-19 cases, Corell said.
The Guard put together 20,000 boxes of food, and delivered 312 tons of supplies to food banks and pantries.
Over 900 soldiers and airmen responded to COVID-19 missions, Corell said.
“As we know, the true heroes of the pandemic response have been our frontline health care workers, local first responders and public health professionals,” Corell said. “The men and women of the Iowa National Guard are honored to have played a small role in supporting these professionals …”
As Iowa recovered from the hurricane-force derecho, which flattened homes, businesses and crops, the Guard sent 200 of its members to Linn County. They helped remove 15,000 tons of debris over 593 city blocks.
There were other missions, Corell noted. In all, 1,700 Iowa soldiers and airmen were deployed on missions in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the U.S. southern border and at the California wildfires. It was the largest overseas deployment of the Iowa Guard in a decade, he added.
In a domestic anti-drug program, the Guard helped seize 3,600 pounds of drugs and $3.7 million in cash.
The Iowa National Guard also provided support to prevent cyber attacks on the November elections.
Corell said 400 Iowa soldiers and airmen will head to Europe, Africa and the Middle East over the next several months.
Corell said the Guard also is working with West Des Moines to build a new multiuse facility in the city over the next couple of years. The Guard plans to dedicate its $23 million Davenport Readiness Center in the spring.