CANG and Conservation Corps working together in response to COVID-19

Aside from slightly unattractive uniforms, what do the California National Guard and California Conservation Corps (CCC) have in common?

Well, plenty. Cal Guard has young, hard-working adults who are dedicated to their COVID-19 humanitarian missions. So does the CCC. The CCC gets called regularly to support state emergencies such as floods and wildfires. So does CalGuard, pretty much every year.

For several weeks, there have been an abundance of similarities between the two organizations after responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Troops and corpsmemembers have united, working shoulder-to-shoulder at food banks, temporary medical facilities, and even an airplane hangar. Their goals are the same — to do what’s required to help the community in this tough, needful time.

“Our allies in the CCC have been an important part in helping meet the needs of Californians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Corella, commander, Cal Guard 115th Regional Support Group. “By combining efforts, the National Guard and CCC are able to provide enough help to keep many food banks operational.”

Joint Task Force 115 has taken the lead in Cal Guard’s humanitarian response.

Cal Guard and the CCC are assisting nearly two dozen food banks statewide. Normal volunteer numbers have dwindled due to the Stay At Home decree, and Cal Guard pretty much staged its humanitarian support beginning in March at food banks. Weeks later the CCC began integrating into food bank support and will likely continue operations as Cal Guard ventures into other missions.

“It’s a great partnership. There are things that the Guard can do that the CCC cannot,” said Melinda Allen, CCC manager, emergency services and special projects unit. “We can definitely augment resources when there are so many food banks that need assistance.”

There are food banks that the Cal Guard solely operates, and some where CCC is on its own, Allen explained. But there are major outlets where they share responsibilities.

“The locations where we are at jointly, we were brought in essentially so that if the Guard has to leave, then there is some continuity,” added Allen. “There’s a food bank task force. The task force identified that potentially, if the Guard may have to be called off, they needed another resource to depend on. The CCC being a state agency, they asked us to participate.”

Cal Guard and CCC have assisted food banks prepping and distributing about 10 million meals since the outbreak began. Cal Guard activated more than a thousand Soldiers, Airmen and State personnel while CCC summoned nearly 300 corps members and conservationists.

In early April a critical mission united Cal Guard with California Emergency Medical Service Authority (EMSA) personnel and other state resource volunteers. The unity prepped and packed 500 ventilators in a matter of hours, then trucked them to Mather Airfield where the California Air National Guard delivered to New York and other states. The CCC provided more than a dozen corps members who, with the Cal Guard, worked late night and early morning hours re-palletizing the ventilators and securing them on metal skids for easier transportation.

California Army National Guardsmen and California Conservation Corps (CCC) corpsmen work together at a Sacramento food bank preparing meals for the Northern California community stricken by the COVID-19 outbreak. The two organizations share similar functions and goals, and sometimes interact during state emergency situations. Since mid-March, CalGuard was activated to support food banks throughout California. Some food bank missions will likely be solely tasked to CCC as CalGuard ventures into other humanitarian missions. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

“They’ve been combining efforts and the results are incredible,” added Command Sgt. Maj. David A. Eckert, 115th command sergeant major. “Sharing labor helps accomplish the overall mission.”

“Just working together,” Allen added. “Just working together and figuring out who needs what, and supporting the needs in the state.”

Similar roles and responsibilities. If a Cal Guardsman gets assigned for food inventory, so does a corps member. If a Cal Guardsman has to pick up a broom or mop and clean the facility, so does a corps member. And when the call comes to work on a assembly roller and pack food, both Cal Guard and CCC are hands on, standing side-by-side and working as one team.

“Some (corps members) have not interacted with the Guard before, so this is a great opportunity where they can learn about the Guard, and the opportunities the Guard may have,” said Chris Van Horne, CCC communications and information officer. “It’s a good experience for our 18- to 25-year olds to see the Guard and the military service as an option.”

“I just feel like we’ve been working very well together,” Allen concluded. “What we need, they help us, and what they need, we help them. It’s just been a really good partnership.”

The article by Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza of the California National Guard was released through the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS).