Father, Son Work Together During Pandemic

From an original article by SGT 1st Class Matthew Keeler, Pennsylvania National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil on June 1, 2020.

STROUDSBURG, Pa. – Joseph Sapienza, director of maintenance/life safety for Pleasant Valley Manor nursing home, recently received word that someone very familiar to him would be coming to work at the home.

His son, SGT Alec Sapienza, a combat medic with the 108th Medical Area Support Company, 213th Regional Support Group, was part of a Pennsylvania Army National Guard team that would be providing support at Pleasant Valley Manor.

SGT Alec Sapienza, left, combat medic with the 108th Medical Area Support Company, 213th Regional Support Group, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and his father, Joseph Sapienza, director of maintenance/life safety for Pleasant Valley Manor nursing home in Stroudsburg, PA, May 21, 2020. SGT Sapienza and other members of the Pennsylvania National Guard are helping out at the nursing home. (Photo by SGT 1st Class Matthew Keeler)
SGT Alec Sapienza, left, combat medic with the 108th Medical Area Support Company, 213th Regional Support Group, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and his father, Joseph Sapienza, director of maintenance/life safety for Pleasant Valley Manor nursing home in Stroudsburg, PA, May 21, 2020. SGT Sapienza and other members of the Pennsylvania National Guard are helping out at the nursing home. (Photo by SGT 1st Class Matthew Keeler)

The younger Sapienza had been hoping to surprise his dad.

“I was trying to surprise him, until my mom told him,” said SGT Sapienza, who was happy that his father was getting support from someone that he knew. “It made him a little more comfortable with the people that he is working with because I knew them as well, personally, most of my military career.”

The Soldiers and Airmen from the Pennsylvania National Guard, in support of Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, have been working in nursing homes and long-term care facilities to aid staff during the COVID-19 situation. Pleasant Valley Manor is one of several that Soldiers and Airmen from Pennsylvania Task Force North have helped with during this time.

SGT Sapienza, having come off support to Gracedale Nursing Home in Nazareth, volunteered to assist with another mission – before he knew where it was.

“I learned roughly two to three days ago,” SGT Sapienza said about being contacted to support another mission. “I had a grievous [situation] in my family – the death of my grandfather – and I realized that I still wanted to keep helping the best that I can.”

SGT Sapienza found out that next mission was going to be Pleasant Valley in an interesting way.

“Captain Vu told me that he needed help in a location. Once he informed me that he knew a man named Joseph Sapienza, he asked me if we were related. I said, ‘Yeah, I might know him,’” said SGT Sapienza.

To SGT Sapienza, the importance of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard supporting nursing homes and long-term care facilities cannot be understated.

“After working with Gracedale, I had extra incentive to volunteer to help with another nursing home,” he said. “The experience was changing. It was definitely an eye-opening experience, especially being a pandemic like we are in right now, about how important it is that we are doing these types of missions.”

The speed is similar to Gracedale, SGT Sapienza said, as the medical professionals from the Army National Guard and the staff of Pleasant Valley worked to understand each other’s capabilities.

“Communication is always going to be the biggest factor, especially when it comes to a new environment with people who do not know you,” said SGT Sapienza. “So, it was helpful for us all to sit down and have a conversation for about 5 to 10 minutes about what we can and can’t do.”

For Joseph, it was a moment of pride for him to see the kind of professional that his son has become.

“It is a pleasure for me, because it is an honor because he is my son and I’m seeing him do things that he told me that he did in action,” Joseph said. “It is a great feeling. I could not tell you how proud I am of him – of him and the entire military.”

Joseph, who handles the boiler and building maintenance, also works in customer relations to make sure residents are happy. He said they have been enjoying the Army National Guard Soldiers at Pleasant Valley Manor.

“I feel the feedback has been great,” he said. “I had residents tell me, ‘They were so nice, and it is a pleasure having them.’ And it was really nice to see that they really, really appreciated it.”

For SGT Sapienza, who has visited Pleasant Valley Manor in the past as a volunteer, returning in uniform was different.

“I finally felt like I was helping,” he said. “When I first came here, I was just talking to people, seeing what they were like – there are many veterans here as well – so it kind of helped you build up that rapport with those people. But, by finally coming here and being able to do something with some jurisdiction, it was a very heartfelt moment.”

Many of the troops from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard are taking the opportunity to assist with the residents at these locations as reasons to continue their medical education, said SGT Sapienza.

“Most of us have been talking about taking our Medical College Admission Test, or even going to physician assistant school and becoming a doctor,” he said. “Coming from Gracedale, a lot of folks are already in school, nursing school, or trying to get into ‘med’ school.”

The Soldiers are supporting Pleasant Valley Manor for a limited time, but this opportunity will never be lost on Joseph.

“He’s doing a great job and I’m not just saying that because I’m his father – I’m the biggest critic, and he’ll tell you this. If you are not doing it right, then I’m going to tell you, I do not hold back [any] punches,” said Joseph. “I’m just so proud of him.”

If you want to make a difference and serve your community, join the Army National Guard, where you’ll serve part-time, get tuition benefits and receive training in one of more than 130 careers in fields like Supply and LogisticsHeavy WeaponsGround Forces, and Transportation. For details on any MOS, search our job board, and contact your local recruiter for more information.

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National Guard Ramping Up COVID-19 Response

Specialist (SPC) Reagan Long, left, a Horizontal Construction Engineer with the New York Army National Guard’s 827th Engineer Company, and Private First Class (PFC) Naomi Velez, a Horizontal Construction Engineer with the New York Army National Guard’s 152nd Engineer Support Company, register people at a COVID-19 mobile screening center in New Rochelle, NY, on March 14, 2020. (Photo by Sergeant Amouris Coss.)

ARLINGTON, Virginia – About 2,050 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in 27 States have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts, according to Air Force General (GEN) Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, who addressed reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, March 19.

At that time, GEN Lengyel said the number most likely would double by the weekend, and it is even possible that tens of thousands of Guard members could be activated as the situation unfolds, depending on the needs of communities.

By Sunday, March 22, an update was released stating all 50 States, three Territories, and the District of Columbia are engaged in combating COVID-19, and 7,300 Guard Soldiers are providing critical skills and support.

There are about 450,000 Guard troops overall, GEN Lengyel noted, who can provide logistical and other capabilities, including ground transportation, command and control, engineering services, kitchens, tents, and medical personnel.

Current National Guard COVID-19 response missions include, but are not limited to: delivering food in hard-hit communities; manning call centers to provide a knowledgeable and calming voice; providing critical personal protective equipment training and sample collection to first responders and hospital personnel; supporting local emergency management agencies with response planning and execution; providing support to testing facilities; serving as response liaisons and support to State emergency operations centers; providing transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers; assisting with disinfecting/cleaning of common public spaces; and collecting and delivering samples.

Last week, GEN Lengyel provided a snapshot of what the Guard already has been doing:

  • The New York National Guard is helping local officials distribute food, much of it in the hard-hit area of New Rochelle.
  • A Tennessee Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft delivered 500,000 swabs to be added to COVID-19 test kits in Memphis last Wednesday.
  • More than 500 Soldiers are assisting with collecting samples from drive-through testing in Broward County, FL.
  • In Maryland, the National Guard is supporting medical assessments and testing site operations.
  • The Wisconsin National Guard is supporting transportation missions for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
  • In Louisiana, Guard liaison officers are assisting the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security in emergency preparedness.
  • Across the U.S., Civil Support Teams are supporting the local departments of health with drive-through testing stations.

“With COVID-19, it’s like we have 54 different hurricanes hitting every State, every Territory, and the District of Columbia. Some are Category 5, some are Category 3, and some are Category 1. But a historic event demands a historic response ­– and that’s what you’re seeing from the National Guard,” says GEN Lengyel.

Air Force GEN Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, briefs Pentagon reporters on the National Guard’s response to COVID-19 on March 19, 2020. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Brandy Nicole Mejia.)

“We remain flexible and committed for whatever mission we may be called to do,” GEN Lengyel said. He noted that the governors of each State have the flexibility to use the Guard in ways they deem most fit and productive.

So far, six members of the Guard in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, he said. Force health protection measures are in place to prevent more from contracting the virus.

If you’re interested in helping your community, find out ways you can serve part-time in the Army National Guard. Your service is rewarded in education benefits and training in careers ranging from police and protection to intelligence to medical services. Visit our job board for details and contact a recruiter for more information.

From an original article by David Vergun, DoD News, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil on March 19, 2020, with updates added.

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National Guard Gives Combat Medic Priceless Training

SPC Leannah TeKrony, Health Care Specialist in the South Dakota Army National Guard, performs preventive maintenance checks and services on her medical bag during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Grafenwohr, Germany. (Photo by SPC Tyler O’Connell.)

GRAFENWOHR, Germany – Army National Guard Specialist (SPC) Leannah TeKrony is bringing her medical expertise to Operation Atlantic Resolve in Grafenwohr.

SPC TeKrony, from the small town of Estelline, S.D., is attached to the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion and serves as a 68W Health Care Specialist, commonly referred to as a combat medic.

She has been drawn to the medical field and the military ever since she was a child.

“It started when I was about 8 years old,” says TeKrony. “I had a huge respect for military personnel, and I had a doctor’s outfit with a stethoscope, so I would pretend to be a military medical person.”

But SPC TeKrony had her doubts about being able to join the military.

“I didn’t understand when I was younger that women could be in the military at the time,” she says. “As I got older, I realized there are things like the National Guard and how more military occupational specialties have opened up to women. There came a point when I realized, ‘I can do that.’”

After talking to a recruiter a few times, “I felt a deep calling and I knew it was what I wanted to do, especially if I could get into the medical field.”

Job training for a Health Care Specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training, including practice of inpatient care. Some of the skills you’ll learn are patient care techniques, emergency medical techniques, methods of sterilizing surgical equipment, and plaster-casting techniques.

During her initial training, SPC TeKrony received three top awards: Iron Medic, Leadership Award, and Distinguished Honor Grad, and was selected for a significant leadership role in training.

“It’s a pretty difficult course,” she says. “It was the first time in my life where I was really recognized for doing what I felt was right. I was crazy humbled and honored.”

SPC TeKrony then found herself attached to the 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion, where she went on back-to-back deployments, one with each battery.

“I never wanted to just sit in South Dakota,” she says. “I never want to sit in just one place, that’s why these deployments have been great. I like to go places and do and see different things.”

Throughout her time as a combat medic, SPC TeKrony has learned a lot of medical procedures that most civilian nurses are not allowed to do.

“I’ve gotten to do sutures, cyst removal, toenail removal, wart excisions on feet and fingers,” she says. “It’s pretty amazing because a lot of the time on the civilian side, it is only the providers that are allowed to do such things.”

SPC TeKrony has been taking college classes while deployed to further her medical career. Soldiers earn benefits to help pay for education and expenses while serving their country and their community.

“I’ve definitely been drawn to a lot of specialties in my life,” she says. “After being here, I would definitely like to work in an ER; however, there is a part of me that would like to go to a more dangerous place to be able to take care of these things that happen daily, whether that be in the Army or on the civilian side.”

SPC TeKrony highly recommends anybody interested in entering the medical field to join the Army National Guard as a Health Care Specialist.

“It would be a great steppingstone into the medical career,” she says. “Not only are you more exposed on the military side, but you also get the experience to carry into the civilian side.”

With more than 130 positions in career fields ranging from Administration to Intelligence to Cyber and Ground Forces, you can find your perfect fit with the Army National Guard. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more.

From an original article by SPC Tyler O’Connell, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in February 2020.

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