PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — About 300 Oregon National Guardsmen deployed to hospitals in the Portland metro area on Saturday in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
A spokesperson for Providence said the 180 service members who will deploy to two of its Portland locations will be serving in non-clinical roles — assisting at entrances, transporting patients and cleaning rooms.
Providence said it already has about 75 National Guardsmen assisting at its Medford medical center.
The deployments were mostly Airmen, many of whom have been busy with different National Guard assignments throughout the year.
Robert Pena, a surveillance technician with the 116th Air Control Squadron at Camp Rilea, said he just got home on Friday from battling wildfires in Oregon when he was ordered to deploy for COVID relief.
“It’s a busy time to be in the Guard but it’s also like the most helpful you’ll ever feel in the Guard because you’re actually doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” Pena said.
Commander David Unruh of the 142nd Wing said the 300 Guardsmen are an example of the “citizen soldier filling a need.”
“They are coming out here to support all our local and regional hospitals, to fill in where they have got gaps in needs,” Unruh said.
Hundreds mobilized this weekend in support of Task Force Reassurance, providing National Guard support to hospitals around the state that are in need of assistance due to COVID-19.
“I’m thankful for the airmen and I’m thankful for the community,” Unruh said. All the Airmen have different skills and specialties, “but their #1 military specialty is service and protecting their nation. …They step up and answer the call.”
Earlier this week about 500 Oregon Guardsmen deployed to hospitals in southern Oregon. When the deployments are complete, about 1500 Oregon National Guardsmen will be helping at hospitals around the state.