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    College Students: Guardsmen respond to COVID-19

    Kansas National Guard helps to expand COVID-19 testing

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Dakota Helvie | Staff Sgt. Joseph Danis, 1077th Ground Ambulance Company, Kansas Army National Guard...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Dakota Helvie 

    Kansas Adjutant General's Department

    Things moved quickly when the Kansas National Guard called two University of Kansas college students to duty for the COVID-19 response. While juggling a full load of online courses, these Citizen-Soldier students jumped at the opportunity to serve their community.

    “From receiving the warning order to the operations order it was a two hour window,” Cadet Sebastian Dutton, 1077th Ground Ambulance Company, Kansas Army Guardsmen combat medic. “I was told I would be on orders and had that evening to pack and email all of my professors.”

    Currently attending the KU for a Bachelor of Science and chemistry degree, Dutton has been able to use this opportunity to incorporate his knowledge and education towards a real-world mission to help those in need.

    Cadet Jessica Pal, a molecular, cellular and developmental biology student at KU and a combat medic for the 1077th Ground Ambulance Company, Kansas Army National Guard, looks forward to the day she will be attending medical school to become a neurologist. Her eagerness and determination towards the medical sciences has only been amplified by the experiences she's gained while in the Guard.

    “The Guard gives you experience, it allows you to work in the field you train in,” Pal said. “I needed a way to afford school and gain the experience, I knew that if I went with the combat medic option in the Guard I would get a lot of medical experience and would make me a better doctor.”

    Neither Pal nor Dutton have shied away from hard work while assigned to a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 at the Western State Bank Expo Center in Dodge City, Kansas. The testing site averages over 20 sample collections per hour, supporting Ford County Health Departments’ response to the pandemic. The two Soldiers have kept busy collecting samples, processing, contact calling, and meeting residents of the community.

    “This is my first time actually experiencing Dodge City, it’s awesome to get to know the people in the town, and they seem very friendly, very willing to be tested,” Pal added. “I’ve done the swabbing, processing the labs and talking to the people, it has allowed me to learn a lot about certain symptoms that you wouldn’t think were common, a lot of new discoveries, I didn’t realize how often headaches could be a symptom.”

    Staying actively engaged in their duties and education goals, both cadets have been upbeat about the future and the opportunities in store for them with the experience gained from this mission. Even when there are hurdles to overcome, the future's still bright with the support from the university and fellow Guardsmen.

    “My professors have been very understanding with my absence, I’m a chemistry major so online courses don’t really allow for labs during a pandemic of this nature but we made it work,” Dutton said. “As a senior this year the pandemic has caused me to readjust my projected graduation past spring of 2021 by adding a semester.”

    Both are in the KU’s Army ROTC program which prepares college students to succeed in any competitive environment. The leadership training and experiences that students have in Army ROTC will provide them with a foundation to become commissioned Army Officers upon graduation.

    “Ever since I joined I knew I wanted to commission,” Dutton added. “I enjoy leading at an operational level; I really excel at seeing the big picture, and creating plans.”

    Over 2,000 lieutenants have commissioned through KU’s Army ROTC program since its establishment in 1918 at the wake of World War I. As Army officers they may pursue additional specialized training, education opportunities, and will be assigned to advanced leadership positions or staff positions in upper management, develop doctrine, teach military tactics or serve as advisors.



    Date Taken: 05.20.2020
    Date Posted: 05.22.2020 14:55
    Story ID: 370676
    Location: DODGE CITY, KS, US 
    Hometown: HUTCHINSON, KS, US
    Hometown: MIAMI, OK, US

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