Colorado National Guard supports state response, maintains readiness during record year

  • Published
  • By Colorado National Guard Public Affairs
  • JFHQ Public Affairs

The Colorado National Guard’s COVID-19 mission, now the largest and longest activation of the National Guard in our state's history, combined with other emergency response missions, have resulted in a record year for CONG domestic response.

More than 630 CONG Citizen Soldiers and Airmen have volunteered to serve during 2020 civil response efforts.

Gov. Jared Polis recently selected Director of the Joint Staff U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman to lead the state’s vaccine task force in the planning, resourcing and execution of the state’s vaccination plan.

“There are eight hubs around the state where these vaccines will be stored in ultra-cold temperatures or freezers,” Sherman said.  “We will use a combination of National Guard personnel and medical couriers to distribute them down to the local level.”

Gov. Polis activated the Colorado National Guard March 10, 2020, to support the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment to test Coloradans for COVID-19 and stop the spread of the virus.

During the height of the COVID-19 response, the CONG had more than 420 members activated while employing full-time staff and capabilities in support of the state. 

The CONG COVID response has included administering more than 110,000 COVID-19 tests in more than 28 Colorado counties, at locations identified by CDPHE such as the state’s correctional facilities, assisted living centers, and drive-up test sites.  CONG's Mobile Testing and Training teams also assisted with COVID testing of more than 1000 wildland firefighters.

In addition to providing the state mobile COVID-19 testing capabilities, CONG members have served as logisticians for PPE warehousing, packaging, and distribution to designated community organizations.  CONG supported the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in building medical shelters such as at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.  CONG members also augmented more than 13 local emergency operations centers around the state with planners and supplemented staff at shelters for people experiencing homelessness in Denver.

COARNG aviators from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Center, in Gypsum, Colorado, and the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 135th Regiment at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado, responded to 24 search and rescue missions in the state’s mountain ranges and are credited with helping ground rescue crews save 25 lives.

In August, the State Emergency Operations Center requested a standby aircrew to provide SAR capability to incident commanders working the largest wildfires in Colorado history.  Additionally, Soldiers supported the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office with traffic control points near the Cameron Peak Fire, west of Fort Collins, Colorado. COARNG aviation assisted wildland firefighters with water bucket drops at the East Fork Fire, in Hanna, Colorado, the Williams Fork Fire, in Fraser, Colorado, and the Zirkel Fire, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  In October, the CONG assisted the Grand County Sheriff’s Office to restrict unauthorized access to the East Troublesome Fire area of operations near Grand Lake and supported the Grand County Office of Emergency Management.

Throughout the CONG’s 2020 support to civil authorities, CONG Soldiers and Airmen continued to maintain readiness by conducting annual training and exercises while continuing to defend our homeland 24/7 through air and missile defense and space warning.  Nearly 300 CONG members deployed overseas in support of the Combatant Commands during 2020.