NEWS | Feb. 15, 2022

Utah National Guard members send much needed help to Southern Utah

By Ileen Kennedy Utah National Guard

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Utah National Guard members are providing direct hospital support in non-medical roles. Service members will be at St. George Regional Hospital providing food and housekeeping services and patient transport. As part of the COVID-19 Joint Task Force, 17 service members arrived to help in Southern Utah, Feb. 8, 2022.

St. George Regional Hospital and the Southern Utah Veterans Home requested support from the Utah Department of Health because of staffing shortages as the spread of the omicron variant has been taxing health care facilities to their limits over the last few months. The omicron variant has caused a surge in COVID-19 cases in Utah.

“The state has requested our help down here and so that’s why we are down here supporting them and supporting the hospital. I think that we will make a difference in being able to help the shortages of the faculty, and just help where we are needed,” said Sgt. Bracken McKinlay, one of the Utah National Guard Soldiers assigned to work at the hospital.

"(Intermountain Healthcare) reached out to ask if the Guard could help support some of the staff shortages the hospital is seeing as they have staff members out with COVID or if they've left the health care system because of the hard work they've done over the last two years," said Lt. Col Erick Wiedmeier, commander of the with the Utah National Guard COVID-19 Joint Task Force.

The health care community has been on the front lines for more than two years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the demanding shift schedule, workers getting sick, people leaving the healthcare profession, and staffing shortages, both care centers and hospitals have been losing employees and not finding people to replace them.

"It's just been a struggle to hire. It's been really hard for the last two years under COVID to be in health care, it's a difficult time," said Mark Evans, St. George Regional Hospital's operations officer.

Not only are doctors and nurses getting burned out from the pandemic, but there is also a shortage of support personnel that help keep many of the daily tasks at the hospitals and care centers running. Guard members will be working to help prepare hundreds of meals each day for patients and staff, cleaning patient rooms after use, as well as transporting items, and helping in the lab.

"All the areas of a hospital that you don't really think about that need to have workers and things happen to make a hospital run," Evans said. "We've had nurses helping out — taking out garbage for a little while instead of having their whole focus on our patients, and that's where we want to be."

The personnel shortage has forced the hospital to be innovative to keep operations moving along.

"We're trying to be as creative as we can, but this will help them continue and actually keep doing the things that go that extra mile for our caregivers who are working so hard," added Evans.

The Guard will provide nonclinical assistance at the hospital as patient volumes have spiked to the highest levels of the pandemic as the omicron surge has significantly impacted staffing. National Guard members said it was an honor to step in to help where needed.

“At first it’s a little daunting not having any medical experience, but after the training, it was a pretty proud moment to be able to know that if needed, we could help in the facilities that we were being asked to help in,” said McKinlay.

The Guard members will be working in Southern Utah for the next two weeks, but that time can be extended.

"If the service members are able to stay on mission and the hospital still needs our support, then we can stay longer," Wiedmeier said.

Evans said the extra assistance provided by the Utah National Guard in a time of need means a lot to the hospital.

"It means that people care, and people listen, and they see the struggle that our caregivers have gone through," he said.

"It makes a huge difference to know that we're not forgotten, and our teams are not forgotten," Evans added. “We're extremely grateful for this opportunity to partner with the Guard. Our staff is excited to have them here.”

Kevin McCulley, the Utah Department of Health's Public Health, Medical, Special Pathogens Preparedness Manager director of preparedness and response, said in a statement: "Utah National Guard members have provided invaluable assistance to the (Utah Department of Health) during the pandemic across multiple mission areas. Early in the response, the Utah Guard was instrumental in the activation of our alternate care site at the Mountain America Expo Center, and now we rely on them for the first deployment into one of Utah's hospitals.”

Wiedmeier added that all the Guard members providing support to the hospital and long-term care facilities have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

"The Utah Guard and the service members that we have here are honored to be part of the community and to support the community in their time of need," said Wiedmeier.
"Health care providers and workers at the hospital have been doing the majority of the work for two long years and are really the unsung heroes of (the) COVID pandemic. For the Guard to be able to step in and support and alleviate some of the strain and stress that has been caused by the pandemic is an honor."




Your Career Starts Here

U.S. Army Cpl. Spencer Fayles with Utah’s 144th Area Support Medical Company, receives a certificate of participation during the Region VII Best Warrior Competition award ceremony on the island of Guam, May 26, 2022. This annual competition featured the best noncommissioned officer and Soldier from eight different states and territories including Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. Testing competitors’ skills and knowledge and pushing them to their limits, the competition graded each participant in key areas such as basic Soldier skills, marksmanship under stress, land-navigation, and physical fitness. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack)
Two Utah Soldiers awaken "Warrior Spirit" at Region VII Best Warrior Competition
By Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack | June 4, 2022
A Soldier’s transformation into a warrior is difficult to describe. Hand-picked by leadership, proving themselves with every drop of sweat, every sore muscle, and every labored breath; Soldiers who compete naturally don the...

Brig. Gen. Frank Gräfe, the defense attaché from the Federation of Germany to the United States, (left) and Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Boyack, Commander of the Utah Air National Guard & Assistant Adjutant General-Air, (right) pose using the iconic “thumbs up” that Gail Halvorsen was known for on May 20th at the Provo City Cemetary. The Utah Air National Guard was in attendance to show support and honor the heroic efforts of Gail Halvorsen. (Utah Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt Nicholas Perez)
Honoring a war hero who delivered hope
By Staff Sgt. Nicholas Perez | May 31, 2022
Ret. U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, known as the “Candy Bomber”, was honored by top leadership from the Utah Air National Guard, Utah National Guard, and Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany with the laying of two...

The Utah National Guard FEMA Region VIII Homeland Response Force held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Collapsed Structure Venue Site which included a demonstration and static display of capabilities May 10, 2022 at Camp Williams, Utah. The CSVS is one of only three military owned Urban Search and Rescue training venues west of the Rocky Mountains. This CSVS will allow both military search and extract and civilian search and rescue teams the opportunity to train together and build those necessary partnerships needed in an “all hazards” response. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
Camp Williams adds a Premiere Search and Extraction Training Site to Benefit the Homeland Response Force, State, Region, and Nation.
By Lt. Col. Robert Ramage Warden | May 11, 2022
The Utah National Guard has a new training site for the Region VIII Homeland Response Force’s search and extraction team, as well as partner civilian urban search and rescue teams. Lt. Col. Erick R. Wiedmeier, commander of...

Members of the Combined Veterans Honor Guard joined members from the Utah National Guard Honor Guard in conducting military funeral honors for the remains of Cpl. David Milano April 29, 2022 in Ogden, Utah. Milano went missing in action Dec. 2, 1950, during the Korean War. After 71 years, his remains have been repatriated to the United States and have been laid to rest on U.S. soil. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
A Family's Faith: Chosin Soldier Comes Home
By Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack | May 3, 2022
Often referred to as “the Forgotten War,” the Korean War’s significance tends to be overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War. Even in that light, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Korean War service members are...

Chief Warrant Officer4 Deena Haag
The Utah National Guard Celebrates Women’s History Month in March 2022
By (Courtesy article) | March 31, 2022
During the month of March, the Utah National Guard celebrates Women’s History and honors and acknowledges the struggles and achievements of American women throughout the history of the United States. Women have played a vital...

The 2-222nd Field Artillery Battalion, “Triple Deuce,” held a reunion for all current and former members of the unit March 19, 2022, at the Stanley A. Staheli Readiness Center in St. George, Utah. This event marks the fifth time in the last eight years that the group has rallied to reunite and reflect on their time spent in service to the nation, state, and community of Southern Utah.
2-222 Field Artillery Battalion “Triple Deuce” holds reunion for former and current members
By Maj. Emilio Suazo | March 19, 2022
The 2-222nd Field Artillery Battalion, “Triple Deuce,” held a reunion for all current and former members of the unit March 19, 2022, at the Stanley A. Staheli Readiness Center in St. George, Utah...

Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith receives his certificate of retirement from Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, adjutant general, Utah National Guard, at his retirement ceremony, March 14, 2022, at Camp Williams, Utah. Smith, whose most recent assignment was assistant adjutant general-Army, Utah National Guard, was joined by family, friends and community members to celebrate his 36-year career in the military. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
Brig. Gen. Tyler B. Smith, former assistant adjutant general-Army, retires after 35-years of service
By Staff Sgt. Ariel Solomon | March 16, 2022
Family, friends, co-workers and community members gathered to say farewell to Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith, the former assistant adjutant general-Army, Utah National Guard, at his retirement ceremony March 15, 2022, in the Lundell...

Maj. Gen Michael Turley, adjutant general, Utah National Guard, passes the organizational colors to Brig. Gen. Joseph Green during a change-of-command ceremony March 13, 2022 at Draper, Utah. During the change-of-command ceremony, Brig. Gen. Joseph Green assumed the role of assistant adjutant general-Army, Utah National Guard, from Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon)
Utah National Guard promotes and welcomes new assistant adjutant general-Army at change-of-command ceremony
By 1st Sgt. John Etheridge | March 14, 2022
The Utah National Guard welcomed its new assistant adjutant general-Army at a change-of-command ceremony March 13, 2022, at its headquarters building in Draper, Utah...

Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Brown passes the 97th Troop Command colors to Col. Tammy Manwaring during the change-of-command ceremony on Camp Williams, Utah, March 13, 2022. Manwaring will then pass the colors on to her successor, symbolically relinquishing her responsibility as the unit's commander. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Cpl. Alejandro Lucero)
97th Troop Command conducts change of responsibility
By Cpl. Alejandro Lucero | March 12, 2022
The 97th Troop Command, Utah Army National Guard, conducted a change-of-command ceremony at the Lundell Readiness Center on Camp Williams, Utah, March 13, 2022. During the ceremony, Col. Tammy Manwaring relinquished command...

Sgt. First Class Robert Conder, a soldier with the 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard, and members of Boy Scout troop take a break from collecting and loading donations for the Scouting for Food drive in Draper, Utah, Feb. 12, 2022. The Utah National Guard is committed to the Scouting for Food drive as it unites Utahns from multiple counties in the fight against hunger. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alejandro Lucero)
Utah National Guard Assists Boy Scouts to Feed Utah Families
By Sgt. James Bunn | Feb. 17, 2022
Soldiers from the Utah National Guard partnered with Boy Scouts of America to collect food donations across Utah for Scouting for Food Day Feb. 12, 2022. This year approximately 75 Utah National Guard members helped deliver...