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    Headquarters Soldiers enable COVID-19 response and its challenges

    Headquarters Soldiers enable COVID-19 response and its challenges

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Julianne Showalter | U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Justin Lee, left, and Capt. Ruben Bernal, right, of the 250th...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Julianne Showalter 

    California National Guard   

    MORENO VALLEY, Calif. — U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Justin Lee sits at his desk working two laptops, answering emails and calls from Soldiers throughout Southern California who are entrusted in his care. With many tasks up in the air, Lee and his team make sure none are missed.

    Lee is from the California Army National Guard’s 250th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Battalion, and works at the tactical operations center inside the Lt. Gen. Herbert R. Temple Jr. Moreno Valley Readiness Center providing behind the scenes support for platoons working COVID-19 humanitarian response missions. Lee and his team mitigate administrative issues and coordinate support for any challenges the Soldiers face with their families or civilian employers.

    "My role is administrative operations ensuring Soldiers are getting paid and getting paid on time. I make sure that they're good to go on the administrative side of things so they can continue to function and operate for the needs of the mission," said Lee.

    While managing the moving parts of the mission, changes come up often. The COVID-19 response poses unique challenges that differ from other missions the National Guard has supported in the past. Some Soldiers are in civilian jobs considered essential while others have lost their civilian employment due to the pandemic.

    “There's a lot of movement surrounding Soldiers' employment on the civilian side. Sometimes it’s a weekly process as far as knowing if we’ll be extended. There's no one at fault for that, but this is what comes with the National Guard and these COVID-19 unforeseen circumstances," said Lee.

    As Cal Guard’s work at food banks and medical facilities around the state continue, so do Soldiers' orders. Lee manages over 100 Soldiers as they adapt to evolving mission requirement and helps with any issues they face with family, employment, or military matters. Lee works with them to ensure they are granted leave or taken off mission if necessary.

    "For me, I’m a single Soldier with no kids. But even though I may not be experiencing any hardships or difficulties of being on a mission, I understand that others have families they need to care for and provide for. On top of that, they may have employers that need them back,” said Lee.

    “It’s been eye-opening and fulfilling. I’m helping them return to their families and concurrently helping others come onto mission that may have lost their civilian job or really want to join the mission. Finding those volunteers has been great process,” said Lee.

    Sgt. 1st Class Torey Masamitsu, with the 250th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Battalion, is one of those Soldiers whose civilian job is deemed essential, "We had very little time to respond to this mission which meant very little time to prep our families and our employers too. I left on a Friday and reported on Saturday, so I just checked out with my employer with a phone call and said I was on emergency activation. Since I’ve been gone so long, it’s time for me to go back."

    Masamitsu is confident in the support citizen-Soldiers receive from their leadership, he said.

    "I feel like I can go on these missions and be taken care of. It’s a really good reassurance that you can leave your employer and work for the National Guard, but then the National Guard also takes care of us when we need to be released back to our employers or families when they need us.”

    Coming off the mission requires Lee and his team to find replacements to ensure the mission is fully manned. The food bank mission, which Masamitsu is on, has contributed to a statewide response delivering over 30 million meals to families in need, so far.

    "My team and I have been checking in with each individual Soldier and trying to find out if they are able to stay on mission past the original end date. Some of them want to return back to their jobs and family, so in order to make that happen we reach out to the other companies within our unit that have Soldiers that want to come on mission. We find volunteers to do a one-for-one swap with those Soldiers," said Lee.

    Military career requirements also take Soldiers off mission. The Department of Defense posed a stop movement through June 30. The travel restriction excludes professional military education, basic training, officer training school and technical schools.

    "Lee's been able to get Soldiers out quickly when they need to. For example, we had a Soldier that needed to report to a military school. Within the same day we received word he had to leave, he was out-processed. That's due to Lt. Lee and his team providing that reach back support,” said Masamitsu.

    One stresser that can impact a Soldier's mental focus on the mission is family. Lee and his team are flexible to accommodate family hardships during the COVID-19 response.

    "Family issues do come up, like one of our Soldier's wife is pregnant and another is in a single-parent situation. Although we have a mission here, they’ve done a great job to be adaptable to family situations in case they do need to go home and take care of their personal issues. It’s a strength of our command to be flexible so they can go on leave to take care of that stress and return to the mission with a clear mind knowing that their family is okay," said Masamitsu, who is also a platoon sergeant.

    “Lt. Lee is the glue that holds us all together here in Indio and Long Beach."



    Date Taken: 05.22.2020
    Date Posted: 05.22.2020 21:04
    Story ID: 370685
    Location: MORENO VALLEY, CA, US 

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