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March of 2022 marks two years since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Nevada. “Changed by the Pandemic” is a KUNR series featuring stories from people whose lives and careers have been drastically altered by the pandemic.

Nev. National Guard crucial in pandemic relief, historic activation about to end

Two Nevada National Guard soldiers enter data onto a computer at a COVID-19 testing site as patients wait.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Greiner
152 Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
The Nevada National Guard supports a community-based collection site in Las Vegas on Sept. 21, 2020. After two years, the Nevada Guard’s COVID-relief mission is the longest activation on record since World War II, and it’s expected to end on April 1.

The Nevada National Guard’s nearly two-year pandemic response mission will go down in history as their longest activation since World War II. They’re expecting to end relief efforts by April 1, 2022.

As a part-time soldier with the Nevada National Guard, Specialist Lauren Damiano couldn’t have realized the extent of the COVID-response mission when she volunteered to be a part of it in April 2020. She was working an office job at the time and finishing courses for a nursing certification. That’s when she says a rare chance to serve in her hometown of Las Vegas came up.

“When the opportunity arose to be here and support where I was from, I definitely wanted to jump on those orders as soon as possible,” she said.

Almost two years later, Damiano is still serving at one of the 85 statewide sites the Guard operated for testing or vaccines.

Damiano is one of 1,500 Nevada guardsmen who have provided assistance with contact tracing, meal distribution and at call centers.

On top of COVID relief, Nevada’s Guard also responded to more than 70 other missions during the pandemic. For example, they provided support during the Dixie and Caldor fires and were deployed to Washington D.C. after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Nevada National Guard Joint and Domestic Operations Director Lt. Col. Brett Compston says coordinating Nevada’s largest domestic mission was no easy feat. It required collaboration with local, state, tribal and federal agencies.

“Coming together and figuring out the processes to tie that together and make that into a synergistic response that actually helped Nevadans — that was probably the biggest challenge that we faced,” Compston explained.

Across the country, 18,000 National Guard members were deployed to help with the pandemic. FEMA’s latest report shows more than $2.5 billion federal dollars went into that effort.

The Nevada National Guard’s activation for COVID-19 response is expected to end on April 1.

This story is part of the KUNR series “Changed by the Pandemic.”

Lucretia Cunningham is a former contributing reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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