On Veterans Day, MI National Guard Continues To Fight COVID-19

Nov 11, 2020

For months, Michigan military personnel have been supporting state agencies on the front lines in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.  WKAR's Kevin Lavery talks with Michigan National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, who says more than 1,100 troops were involved in fighting the pandemic at the height of the response.

 


Maj. General Paul Rogers:

They were doing missions from logistics to testing to specialized skills such as our medical personnel.  They supported food distribution (and) the food bank.  So, they really had a broad impact across the entire response. Currently today, we have approximately 250 (troops) still serving in response to COVID.

 

Kevin Lavery:

On Tuesday, Governor Whitmer sent a letter to President Trump requesting an extension of the federal funding that is needed to support the Guard's mission with COVID-19 through the end of March.  How much is the state asking for, and what would that accomplish?

 

Maj. Gen. Rogers:

The request is to reimburse the state for 100% of the state's costs for the missions that they are asking us to do.  With everything going on; the pandemic continuing…having the National Guard available as an asset is very, very important. We're never the principal response.  We are always there in support of other state agencies. In regard to the pandemic, we're largely there supporting the Department of Health and Human Services.  They're the lead, we support them. But having that authority to be reimbursed by the federal government is critical for allowing us to truly support the needs of the state during a crisis.

 

Lavery:

And how likely is it that request will be granted?

 

Maj. General Paul Rogers:

I've learned not to make predictions; there's too much opportunity for miscalculation.  I'm hopeful everybody understands how devastating this crisis is. Early on, it was 100 percent reimbursement.  In the last several months, it's been 75 percent reimbursement. So, I'm hopeful we will get approved for 100 percent, and that we can be brought to bear without any hesitation in the response for the state.

 

Kevin Lavery:

We learned this week that Pfizer is ramping up a large-scale vaccine test.  Once it clears the FDA, what role do you see the Michigan National Guard playing in distributing a vaccine to the people who need it the most?

 

Maj. Gen. Rogers:

As I mentioned, we're always there in support. So, we will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to help lay out the plan to figure out where we could add value where we're necessary, and that will determine what our role will be. But we are prepared to support any role from distribution to storage.  Anything we can do to help, we are ready to help.

 

Lavery:

There's some bipartisan legislation in Michigan that was just announced this week that would ease some barriers for servicemembers and veterans and their dependents to become licensed in certain occupations.  If approved, what impact you foresee that having on our state economy?

 

Maj. Gen. Rogers:

That’s such an exciting initiative, and it's an important step forward. This initiative really is geared toward offering opportunities for families, particularly families transitioning off active duty and coming back to the state of Michigan, or for active duty people transferring into the state of Michigan. What this allows working spouses to do who are in licensed professions is to take the license from the state they're coming from and apply it to Michigan.  It really builds upon the strength of our families.

 

Lavery:

On this Veterans Day in particular, is there anything special you'd like to tell the troops under your command?

 

Maj. Gen. Rogers:

I'm so proud of them. It's an honor for me to serve in their myths and serve alongside just great Americans and great Michiganders, so I'm just I'm proud of them each and every day. And what they do on a daily basis is just incredible.