The Colorado National Guard says it has maintained readiness in 2020 while in the midst of the largest and longest activation in state history.
Its COVID-19 response has involved more than 630 citizen soldiers and airmen. That response broadened to include vaccine distribution when Gov. Jared Polis picked the Guard's director of the joint staff, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, to lead the state's vaccination taskforce, according to a news release sent by the Guard.
Guard members will help distribute the Pfizer COVID vaccine, which is being stored at eight hubs throughout the state in ultra-cold freezers, Sherman said at a press conference with state health officials this month.
But the Guard's biggest role in the state's pandemic response has revolved around testing. Members of the state's Guard have administered more than 110,000 COVID-19 tests in 28 counties, at locations such as correctional facilities, assisted living centers and drive-up testing sites. Additionally, Guard members tested more than 100 wildland firefighters during a rash of fires seen by the state earlier this year, according to the release.
The Guard has also assisted with logistics for the storage and distribution of personal protective equipment, supported the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in constructing medical shelters, and sent staff to augment 13 local emergency operations centers around the state, the release states.
Meanwhile, aviators from the High Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Center in Gypsum, along with partners from Buckley Air Force Base, responded to 24 search and rescue missions in the state's mountain ranges this year and are credited with helping save 25 lives. Guard troops also supported law enforcement with traffic control during the state's wildfires this year, and its aviators assisted with water bucket drops, according to the release.
Additionally, nearly 300 Guard troops were deployed overseas in support of combatant commands.