VNG COVID-19 response efforts highlight pride, teamwork for Soldiers

Sgt. Kenneth Wilson, assigned to the 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, assists the Virginia Department of Emergency Management prepare much-needed supplies for delivery during COVID-19 response efforts. (Virginia Defense Force photo by WO1(Va.) Jake Crocker)

RICHMOND, Va. – With more than 500 Virginia National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force mobilized in support of the state’s COVID-19 response, everyone has their own story of what their service means to them. For Sgt. Kenneth Wilson, it’s pride.

“I’m always proud to help out my community and am always excited for new opportunities to make a difference,” he said. “The opportunity to provide support during this pandemic was no different.”

Wilson, a horizontal engineer assigned to the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, was among the first mobilized by the Virginia National Guard.

“I received the call from my platoon sergeant asking for volunteers on March 18, and I take pride in always trying to be the first to volunteer for extra duties,” said Wilson. “We were initially looking at a few days to provide local support, but that turned into three weeks.”

Initially, Wilson and the other members of the team were assigned to help load supplies and create orders for localities needing medical supplies. From there, the mission evolved and Wilson and his fellow Soldiers worked with state agency partners to develop a logistics staging area for the state.

“Each day, we received medical supply shipments, hand sanitizer, food and more,” Wilson said. “We created a spreadsheet to track everything we packed and stored to establish an efficient system for receiving, packing, storing and distributing.”

As need around the state increased, the team began receiving requests for medical supplies, food and water from localities across the commonwealth.

“Each order was very specific and required attention to detail,” Wilson said. “I feel like we had established a well-ironed and smooth-functioning distribution center during the three weeks we were there. By the time we had completed our orders, the walls and aisles were stacked to the ceiling with supplies.”

Wilson has been with the Virginia Army National Guard for seven years and spent four years on active duty with the U.S. Navy before transitioning to the National Guard. He served two naval deployments aboard the U.S.S. Truman and the U.S.S. Boxer and on flight decks of aircraft carriers as a plane handler and a flight deck firefighter. When he decided to leave the Navy, he wanted to find a way to serve his community, which is what led him to join the National Guard.

Wilson says the work he’s done while serving in the Virginia National Guard has never been dull. From routine training in the woods of Fort Pickett to calls for state active duty, he says the continued challenges are what keep him in uniform.

“No state active duty mission has ever been the same,” said Wilson, “One month, we could be preforming hurricane relief, then a few months later, we could be helping provide security during a presidential inauguration.”

Additionally, the family he’s found within the National Guard is something he especially values.

“Outside of my wife and three children, there is no greater family than those of my brothers and sisters in the Guard,” Wilson said. “We always come together, no matter our differences, and we make the best of what we are given. For that, I am thankful. Especially during this mission, my team was amazing and performed extremely well.”

Wilson says he wants to commit at least another 15 years to the Virginia Army National, or, he said, “for as long as they’ll keep me.”

During domestic operations, the VNG receives mission taskings from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and can’t respond to direct requests for assistance. Localities looking for VNG support should contact VDEM and make a request. Read more about the VNG’s statewide response at https://go.usa.gov/xvQgp