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    NY Army Guard Twins serve together on COVID-19 mission

    Twins Serve on COVID-19 mission

    Photo By Maj. Michael O'Hagan | New York Army National Guard Specialists Armani and Artez Wilkins (R) and PFCs Jiralmi...... read more read more



    Story by Mark Getman and Edward Shevlin

    New York National Guard

    NEW YORK--Two sets of identical twins are among the 6,394 troops who have been part of the New York National Guard's COVID response mission that began in March 2020 and is winding down now.

    New York Army National Guard Specialists Armani and Artez Wilkins, both infantrymen assigned to the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, and PFCs Jiralmi and Gizelle Lugo, members of the 369th Sustainment Brigade, served together to support New York’s COVID 19 response.

    Working together on the pandemic response mission has brought them closer together and broadened their military experience, both sets of twins said.

    The Wilkins, who both live in Bayshore, went on duty together in March 2020 as the New York National Guard was tasked with assisting in New York's response to the emerging pandemic.

    The mission was focused on trying to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in New Rochelle north of New York City in Westchester County.

    The Wilkins, age 27, were assigned to missions cleaning the New Rochelle City Hall and local schools, back when scientists thought the virus could be transmitted by surface contact.

    Later, the two were assigned to a COVID-19 drive-through test site established at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

    They worked as drivers for their team and assisted in guiding people through the testing process.

    "One of the things that I learned was understanding how people understand you," Armani said. "There were language barriers that sometimes-made communications more difficult. But we found ways to put people at ease while keeping the process moving."

    "I learned a lot about caring for other people from my fellow team members and my daily interaction with the public," Artez said.
    Unfortunately, they also both contracted COVID-19 together.

    Artez had a few symptoms, but the virus hit his brother harder.
    "I couldn't walk or breathe well for a couple of weeks, and my memory also felt foggy for about the same duration," Armani Wilkins recalled.

    Both recovered and went back on duty, although they got split up on different missions.

    Artez kept working at the Stony Brook test site, while Armani was assigned to the massive vaccination site at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

    The Lugo sisters joined the New York Army National Guard in February 2020, the month before the Wilkins went on COVID-19 duty.

    The 19-year-olds from Queens enlisted to serve as human resource specialists. They also tend to answer questions at the same time with the same exact words.

    "It was a joint decision to pick the same MOS," the two said. "Training together gave us both the confidence we needed to succeed," Giselle Lugo said.

    A year later, they were back from training and volunteered for the COVID-19 mission, and in March 2021, they both began working at the Javits vaccination center.

    Staffed by 620 members of the New York Army and Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia, and the New York Guard, the state's volunteer defense force, the vaccination site at the convention center is the largest in New York. More than 650,500 vaccinations have been completed at the site.

    Initially, the two sisters worked in different sections. Jiralmi Lugo worked in the personnel section, while Giselle Lugo worked in the intelligence section.

    Now, though, they are both working in the personnel office.

    "Having my sister by my side during AIT [advanced individual training] and now working together with her on the mission has been a great comfort," Giselle said.

    Being in different sections for a while was also a good thing; the two agreed.

    "Not being with my sister all the time and working in different sections taught me to be independent," Giselle added.

    Stpry by Cpt Mark Getman and WO1 Ed Shevlin - New York Guard



    Date Taken: 06.30.2021
    Date Posted: 06.30.2021 10:41
    Story ID: 400056
    Location: NEW YORK, NY, US 

    Web Views: 287
    Downloads: 0