By Warrant Officer Thea James, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard (LANG) held an award ceremony to bid farewell to active duty airmen assigned to Task Force Monroe, a Louisiana COVID response team, and to recognize their efforts in assisting the citizens of Louisiana during COVID-19 recovery operations, at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana, March 9.
“We’ve had other people come and help out at St. Francis, but I can tell you that this has been the best that we have ever had with help that has come,” said Ms. Kristen S. Wolkart, vice president of patient care services. “We are very proud to say that we’ve had you all to work alongside us.”
Task Force COVID partnered with U.S. Air Force medical personnel to support St. Francis Medical Center during the Omicron surge. The task force is comprised of approximately 40 Airmen from seven different bases in the U.S., making up seven installations and two small medical teams (SMT).
Addressing the awardees, Brig. Gen. Cindy Haygood, the dual status commander of Task Force COVID, said, “You guys started March 9. When we started during the height of Omicron, the state was at 28.9% positivity, and the state is down to 2.3% this week, which is incredible.” She added that COVID hospitalizations were at 2,400 in Louisiana and now are at 214.
Maj. Gen. Keith Waddell, adjutant general of the LANG, and Haygood awarded the airmen with differing awards, including: the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Ribbon, the Armed Forces Service Medal and the Louisiana Emergency Service Ribbon. They also awarded Courtney Williamson, St. Francis Medical Center director of nursing and Stacey Scwabe, director of patient care service, with the Louisiana Distinguished Civilian Service Medal.
“The great thing about our military … when you look at what we are able to do with all branches of service … when we get a mission and you bring these service members together, it’s just amazing how people rally together and make it happen,” said Waddell. “Thank you for what you’ve done and please thank your families and your leadership; you are certainly ready for whatever the Department of Defense has for you in the future.”
“This is my fifth COVID mission, and the most memorable part is always when I am walking through the hospital or medical center and see our DoD providers fully engaged and caring for their patients. They are world-class professionals that always perform at the highest levels,” said Col. David S. Dinkelman, currently serving as the Title 10 deputy commander.