By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The National Guard’s motto is “Always Ready, Always There.”
In unprecedented and challenging times, these soldiers and airmen are prepared to serve their country.
It’s a responsibility Haley Munson and Trevor Wood take seriously.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney seniors didn’t hesitate to sign up for service when the Nebraska Army National Guard was called upon in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even though it was voluntary, there wasn’t an option for me,” said Munson. “I’m going to take care of my community.”
On April 27 – with two weeks remaining in the spring semester – the 23-year-old began a 31-day stay in Omaha, where she assisted people in need of temporary housing.
As part of an agreement with the state of Nebraska, University of Nebraska residence halls in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney were made available to people who need to quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure or isolate themselves from high-risk individuals living in their household.
“It’s a great option to keep people safe,” said Munson, a transportation noncommissioned officer with the Kearney-based 734th Brigade Support Battalion.
Munson handled a variety of duties at the University of Nebraska at Omaha housing site, including taking guests’ temperatures, delivering meals, medication and hygiene items and overseeing day-to-day operations. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of medical care at each location.
After working the day shift, Munson returned to her hotel room to tackle schoolwork in the evening. UNK’s shift to remote learning and some very understanding professors helped in this area.
“A lot of my professors allowed me to set my own schedule for exams and final papers,” Munson said. “I have to give UNK professors a fist bump because they have always been 100% willing to work with me.”
Last year, Munson missed six weeks of spring classes between her annual Guard training, a two-week stint assisting with the flood recovery effort in Papillion and other military duty.
The Tryon native joined the Nebraska Army National Guard on her 17th birthday and recently signed up for another three years.
“I plan on going the full 20 years,” said Munson, who has several family members with military service.
Munson is studying business administration with an emphasis in supply chain management and minors in biology and chemistry. She’s interning with Norfolk Iron and Metal this summer and plans to graduate in the fall.
“I will actually graduate debt-free from college because of the military,” Munson said.
Across the state, the Nebraska National Guard’s joint task force continues to support COVID-19 response efforts including mobile testing, food bank operations, PPE distribution and quarantine accommodations. #NEGuard | #NECOVID19 | #NationalGuard | #InThisTogether pic.twitter.com/yDX1AyuN2j
— NE National Guard (@NENationalGuard) May 28, 2020
Wood, who joined the National Guard 5 1/2 years ago, had a different role during the coronavirus pandemic.
He spent six weeks delivering personal protective equipment to locations across the state.
“Since campus was closed and I couldn’t do my work study job, I jumped on the opportunity,” he said.
At UNK, Wood is an information networking and telecommunications major who works in the cyber systems department. In the National Guard, he’s a truck driver with the North Platte-based 1075th Transportation Company.
In mid-April, National Guard soldiers began processing requests and delivering masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment. Behind the wheel of an M915A5 truck limited to a max speed of 65 mph, they traveled from Lincoln to communities across the state, including 800-mile round trips to the Panhandle, where Wood’s hometown of Mitchell is located.
“It was pretty fun,” Wood said. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
The 23-year-old was on duty six days a week, leaving Sundays to focus on schoolwork.
Wood is currently interning with ruralMED Management Resources, a Holdrege business that provides consulting, support resources and administrative services for rural health care organizations. He plans to graduate from UNK in spring 2021.