(TNS) - While most have done their job by adhering to Gov. Charlie Baker's stay-at-home advisory to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases, the Massachusetts National Guard's 1058th Transportation Company, based in Hingham, has done its job by transporting much-needed supplies to the front lines in the battle against COVID-19.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Painten of Stoughton, one of the 1058th's noncommissioned officers, has been with the unit for five years and says the company has been responding at all hours of the day and night during this trying time.
"They are working their tails off every day," he said. "I couldn't be prouder of their hard work and effort."
The 167 men and women serving in the 1058th have had missions every day since they were activated on March 20.
In the past month, they've logged 23,000 miles transporting personal protective equipment to police and fire departments, hospitals, and nursing homes throughout the state.
"We are a transportation company, it's what we were made for," Painten said.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency sends the requests for supplies to headquarters and the missions are sent to the 1058th the night before.
A typical mission includes visits to three to seven sites.
Before they head out, the guardsmen check their 5-ton Light Medium Tactical Vehicle at the Hingham Armory to make sure everything is running properly.
In the beginning, they picked up donated supplies that were dropped off at VFWs throughout the state and then took them to the central distribution center in Marlboro. On later missions, they delivered them directly to communities from north of Boston down to the Cape.
Because they are delivering personal protective equipment, it is critical that the soldiers themselves aren't COVID-19 positive or the equipment they're delivering will be tainted. Every morning when they enter the armory in Hingham, their temperature is taken. At the distribution center in Marlboro, their temperature is taken again and their pulse is checked. The soldiers wear personal protective equipment when they deliver the supplies to ensure safety for all.
The soldiers know the importance of their mission.
Corporal Deanna Walsh, of Stoneham, was in the lead truck on the Logan Airport mission where the company helped unload thousands of N95 masks from the Kraft family plane.
"This is the biggest mission I've been a part of," Walsh said. "And I'm so grateful that I get to help out. You see all the bad stuff on the news, but I know we're doing this good out here to help mitigate (the disease) and try to create a stop to it."
Being part of the Logan mission and unloading the masks has been a highlight for the 1058th so far, members say.
"Everyone was just working so smoothly together and everyone's cooperation. All of this is going to help out so many people," Walsh said.
Specialist Jared Chipman, a Hingham High School 2014 graduate, joined the 1058 because he wanted to do something to better his life after he earned an associate's degree. The seed was planted at a young age, when he used to watch National Guard trucks drive up and down Hingham streets.
Chipman's entire family has been involved during the COVID-19 pandemic. His mother is a nurse who takes care of patients, and his sister is an emergency medical technician who has been busy responding to multiple calls per day. When he was activated, Chipman said he was glad to answer the call.
"I'm happy to be here," he said. "I'm glad to be helping out as much as I can. Anytime they need me, I said 'Call me, I will be here.' "
Members of the 1058th have been making sacrifices while they have been activated.
Chipman's girlfriend's father is 70 years old and has respiratory issues, so he hasn't had a chance to spend time with her or their 1-year-old. But Chipman said he understands the mission.
"It's a sacrifice you gotta make," he said.
Others in the unit, who live more than 50 miles from the armory, are staying in hotels away from partners and family. There have also been members of the National Guard throughout the state that have tested positive for COVID-19 since they've been activated. Because of privacy laws, the 1058th cannot release information about cases involving the company.
Usually, the 1058th meets one weekend per month and for one week in the summer, so they don't have much of a chance to bond. This mission has changed that, according to First Sgt. Vernon Jones, of Dorchester.
"The most important thing is, us as the 1058th, us coming together as a whole," Jones said. "Coming together as one team, one family. We love doing what we do . . . and to be in this moment of time, just to be a part of it, to be part of the mission, to be part of the resiliency of the state and of the country and coming together as a whole is very important."
The soldiers of the 1058th understand their role. They have been trained to transport supplies and provide mutual aid for first responders during emergency situations like flooding from nor'easters.
With the state facing its biggest emergency since perhaps the Blizzard of '78, the pandemic is the largest and longest-lasting mission the 1058th has dealt with domestically. In response, the 1058th has stepped up to the challenge.
"We've got to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Painten.
Robin Chan can be reached at email@example.com.
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