November 20, 2014

W.Va. National Guard stands ready | Charleston Daily Mail

Monday, the news broke that a second patient died from Ebola on U.S. soil.

Dr. Martin Salia’s tragic death is a sign that the Ebola epidemic is still a danger to the American public, and we should be ever vigilant to contain, control and combat this virus overseas.

And while many physicians, medical personnel and aid workers now fear confronting the Ebola crisis, West Virginians need not look any farther than our own West Virginia National Guard since our Guardsmen advance to the front lines of training and assisting our Armed Forces in preventing the spread of the deadly disease.

The West Virginia National Guard frequently provides support for major national-level military operations, often without fanfare.

For instance, specially trained West Virginia Guardsmen played a critical role in training active duty soldiers who were deploying to Liberia to assist in preventing Ebola from spreading beyond its borders.

Just a few weeks ago, the same day that President Obama called the fight against Ebola a “top national security priority,” and the federal government began increasing airport screenings in the United States and in West Africa, the U.S. Army called the West Virginia Army National Guard for immediate support.

The 101st Airborne was in the process of training roughly 1,000 soldiers when a senior Army Physician Assistant reached out to the West Virginia Army National Guard to fill training gaps at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Within four hours of receiving the request for assistance, the Guard pulled together its resources and sent 17 West Virginia Guard expert trainers to Kentucky to participate in the 101st Airborne’s training program.

Active and Guard soldiers worked together, as they have for years, to improve the effectiveness of the training sessions that helped prepare the soldiers to properly remove their personal protective equipment and adhere to the strict procedures on how to use the special protective gear.

Thanks to the swift execution of our Guardsmen upon their arrival, the 101st Airborne added four more instruction stations and helped the soldiers cycle through the equipment exercises until they felt confident and satisfied in their training.

After the sessions were complete, the 101st Airborne’s Commanding General personally reported back to West Virginia National Guard’s leadership that the participating Guardsmen had contributed to a “total army solution” for his soldiers deploying to Liberia, which is truly quite a compliment from a top Army commander.

If nothing else, this story underscores our great need to maintain a ready and capable National Guard.

The West Virginia National Guard’s proficient support to the Active Duty Army demonstrates its unique capabilities and the invaluable technical expertise that National Guard units can maintain through proper funding and readiness.

The National Guard offers the best commanders, best training, and best resources to protect America’s securities, freedoms and liberties every day, and this example is one of thousands that verify the importance of maintaining the Guard’s relevancy and proficiency.

It was one of my most privileged roles to be Commander-in-Chief of the West Virginia National Guard, and I can assure you that watching the performance of the Guard firsthand is unparalleled to anything I’ve witnessed.

I often times recall my travels to Afghanistan and Iraq while serving as Governor. Every one of the commanders on every one of the bases I visited made a point to tell me that West Virginia Guardsmens’ expertise, professionalism and commitment were invaluable to their command posts.

And those sentiments resonate across the U.S. and beyond our borders to this day. Just last Friday, I traveled to Guantanamo Bay on a fact-finding mission to review the detainment facilities, and I had the honor of meeting members of the West Virginia Army National Guard. Their profound dedication to duty and professionalism know no bounds, and that is something to be proud of.

The United States military strength is unchallenged worldwide, and that’s in large part due to our National Guard. Their ability to serve multiple, demanding roles at a moment’s notice serves as an irreplaceable asset to our military, and I believe that our Guard units’ successful missions should be shared with the people they protect.

So today, I join all West Virginians in commending West Virginia Army National Guard on their monumental efforts to support our brave service members who are joining the fight to battle Ebola.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is former governor.

By:  By Joe Manchin