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(1200) Message from the Commander, Washington Air National Guard

Air Guard Nation:

What a difference a week makes. Schools are closed, TDYs are cancelled, traffic in the Seattle area is as light as I've ever seen, and we're eating take out from restaurants.

From this point forward, I'm planning on giving you a weekly roll-up of the things I see out there on the horizon in the hope that somehow it gets us all through this with a little more awareness and makes us all stronger on the back end of all this.

I'll break these updates up in what I call "outside the wire" and "inside the wire" issues, harkening back to my deployment days.

Outside the wire:

- Probably the biggest challenge out in our communities now is planning for a medical surge that will hit our hospitals hard if the virus curve doesn't flatten soon. Slowing the spread of this virus is the reason for all the changes in our lifestyle these days. Personal protective equipment for our health care workers is a big issue as well, and one being addressed at the State and Federal Level.

- Second, is Continuity of Commerce for our state. If folks keep buying more supplies than they reasonably need for a week at a time, the system will continue to strain like it is now. And it's much more than toilet paper. Buy what you need, and save some for your neighbors. Also, the temporary closure of businesses will cause second and third order effects across our economy. Please do what you can to support small business across the state. They need our collective support more than ever.

Missions:

- We're still looking at a number of possible missions as this crisis develops. Logistics distribution and manning assistance at testing sites continue to rise to the top as possible missions. One mission that keeps spreading on the rumor mill is that the National Guard will be used to lock down the state. There's absolutely no truth to that rumor, and I need your help to keep it from spreading.

Inside the wire:

- Camp Murray and NG facilities across the state are open, although many of our full-time members are telecommuting to minimize risk, and comply with state and federal directives. We are maintaining a structure that allows us to take care of business and ensure we have the ability rapidly scale up when a request comes in for help.

- April UTA is still on. Other states have cancelled drills, but I've given our Commanders and leadership teams max flexibility on scheduling work during drill. There will be folks at work, there will be folks working on tasks from home, and there will be a liberal excusal policy, if needed. My concern with simply cancelling drill is that many of our members depend on their drill paycheck, and I don't want to cut off the cash flow to families any more than is already happening. But it's a balance.

- We are a family. If you are facing economic issues as a result of the economic slowdown this virus will cause, please keep in touch with your supervisor and unit. I've asked our Wing Commanders to designate members of their full time workforce that rapidly become smart on unemployment benefits or any other benefit that might be available to assist you and your families during this time. Rather than have 2,100 people doing independent research on processes, I'd like our full time team to help support the research efforts a bit. Anything our full time force can do to reduce the stress of our part time force, we'll be doing.

- Temp work. If you are in need of temporary work, please contact your unit. Every year we turn in excess dollars that could have been used to hire temporary technicians to assist our full time force because we didn't have enough people looking for work. Likewise, with the travel restrictions in place now, units will likely have extra training days for members who have the availability to work and there's a need in the unit. If your work situation has changed, please contact your unit and see if there are some options consistent with missions, and the social distancing requirements we're all living through now.

Again, hang in there, and this too shall pass. Keep yourselves and your families healthy. Support the business community, but don't buy too much.

And let us know if you need help. We're all in this together.