In Case You Missed It: Major General Ondra L. Berry reflects on Nevada National Guard service during COVID-19

March 08, 2021

This weekend, Nevada National Guard Major General Ondra L. Berry was featured in the Reno Gazette Journal, reflecting on the largest and lengthiest activation in Nevada National Guard history. You can read the piece online here, or below.

It’s been nearly a year since the pandemic ushered in the largest and lengthiest state activation in Nevada National Guard history.

As the virus spread rapidly last March, the Nevada Guard entered an elevated role in support of the state. Guardsmen volunteered for a variety of missions: movement of personal protective equipment, food distribution and testing. They did this while conducting five federal overseas deployments in addition to civil unrest response last summer in Nevada and earlier this year at the U.S. Capitol. The Nevada Guard has never been busier or more visible.

Similar to how the pandemic tested our nation’s medical infrastructure, it also tested our emergency response capabilities. To meet this test, the Nevada Guard provided personnel, equipment, planning and leadership.

Testing was key. Nearly 85 percent of the 2.6 million COVID-19 tests conducted in Nevada so far involved assistance from the Nevada Guard. Additionally, Guardsmen distributed 10 million articles of personal protective equipment and packaged nearly 2 million meals for those in need. The Nevada Guard will continue to assist the state’s vaccination efforts while simultaneously preparing for the future needs of Nevadans and the nation.

Given their status as residents in our community, Nevada Guardsmen were well positioned to assist. The Nevada Guard serves as a federally funded, state managed and locally executed best practice. Through protest, polarization and pandemic, the National Guard proved its promise as a positive example of unity and dedication to our nation.

As I reflect on the past year, I remain extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished. History will show Gov. Steve Sisolak and COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage provided measured leadership that followed the science and helped save lives. I also want to thank my staff, Brig. Gen. John Week, Lt. Col. Brett Compston and Lt. Col. Justin Galli, who tirelessly worked to guide multiple government agencies through a unified state response.

I’m especially proud of the 1,400 soldiers and airmen activated for COVID-19-related mission, such as Spc. Jermaine Longmire, who took an initiative to learn Paiute and Shoshone greetings to speak with tribal members arriving at COVID testing sites. Longmire and other members of the Guard’s mobile testing team conducted 40 COVID-19 swab collection sites in remote locations around the state to track the spread of the virus in rural Nevada and on Tribal land. That’s in addition to hundreds of others who built and managed largescale testing sites in Clark and Washoe counties.

I also want to thank our members who volunteered outside their role in the Nevada Guard. Lt. Sparkle Mccuiston was one of the first Nevada Guardsmen to enter the fight against COVID-19. Mccuiston responded in early March last year working her civilian job as an infectious disease nurse in Clark County. More than 240 Nevada Guardsmen work full-time as medical professionals, whether as doctors, nurses, dental technicians or in other fields.

So many in our state deserve credit for the past year: medical professionals, first responders, educators, retail workers, other front-line workers, and, of course, soldiers, airmen and civilians in the Nevada Guard. They’ve provided a shining example and a path through this turbulent year. The Nevada Guard is always ready, always there as neighbors helping neighbors.

Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry is the adjutant general of the state of Nevada, the highest ranking officer in the Nevada Guard. He works as the chief advisor to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on all matters affecting the 4,400 soldiers, airmen and civilians in the Nevada Guard.

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