From news to the Michigan National Guard -- My COVID-19 experience

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a set of unique missions for the Michigan National Guard.

I am a member of the Army National Guard who was able to play a small role in the state’s response to COVID-19

It was a crazy year from the very beginning. 

After the first cases of the virus were announced on March 10, 2020, I kept a duffle bag in my car in case my unit was needed. There were a lot of rumors swirling around at the time, and it seemed pretty inevitable that it would happen soon. 

My job included assembling test kits that National Guard testing teams would use.

It was difficult because I was fielding a lot of questions from people, some of whom genuinely believed rumors that the Guard was going to be called on to enforce stay-at-home orders and force people to stay in their houses. It was such a weird time because while I knew that wasn’t happening, I was asked about it repeatedly. It was stressful, on top of all the other stressful aspects of the pandemic, and made me uncomfortable.

I worked in a newsroom, so any time a press release came about Guard members being called up, the joke was that I was going to find out I was needed from a news release. While that was never the case, I did get called to help.

Last spring, the Guard was testing for COVID-19. Testing teams were working long hours testing prisoners -- and managed to test every prisoner by the end of May. Guard members were also assisting nursing homes that wanted help testing their residents and operating free public test sites around the state. 

Early in the pandemic, testing was imperative, and the Guard was responsible for testing thousands of people.

I was responsible for helping get thousands of COVID-19 test kits to testing teams.

I was tasked with making sure test kits and the necessary personal protective equipment was prepared for all of those missions. I would spend my days driving around to pick up supplies, building test kits, getting supplies ready to be picked up, and delivering test kits. At that point, we were at the center of the Guard’s testing response.

It was a different perspective of the pandemic that I had been covering for months and continued to cover for hours when I would return home from Guard duty every night.

While I consider the work I did to be minuscule compared to what my comrades were doing, I am happy I had the opportunity to help. I joined the Guard with the intention to help my community, though I never could have guessed that would mean being part of a global pandemic.

In addition to testing, the Guard has been helping in other areas.

When the pandemic first started and access to PPE was limited, members of the Guard helped the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with the distribution of face shields, gloves, and other gear.

Guard members have also been working at food banks to help Michiganders struggling during the pandemic, as it has led to increased food insecurity

Airmen from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base pack food boxes at Forgotten Harvest Food Pantry in Royal Oak, Mich. in support of the Michigan National Guard's efforts to support local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S.

According to the Guard, soldiers helping at Gleaners Community Food Bank in Pontiac were packaging more than 1,000 meals a day for people in the community, while airmen at Forgotten Harvest Food Pantry in Royal Oak were helping to deliver more than 138,000 pounds of food a day to Metro Detroit residents.

Now that vaccines are available, the Guard has been involved with vaccinating people

The extra help is allowing for health departments and other medical personnel to get the vaccine to more people.

Over the weekend, 30 testing teams consisting of more than 90 Guard members administered more than 2,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to residents from three counties at Delta College in Bay County.

The Guard is expected to continue assisting with giving vaccines to eligible Michigan residents.

U.S. Army Spc. Kristopher Huffa, a medic with the Michigan Army National Guard, currently serving with Michigan National Guard’s (MING) Task Force Red Lion COVID-19 Vaccination/Testing Team (CVTT), administers the COVID-19 vaccine to members of the c