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National Guard points to its coronavirus record after internal complaint
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National Guard points to its coronavirus record after internal complaint

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Center for People In Need food distribution

Pvt. Isaac Aguilera (left) and Sgt. Mark Wattier load food into a vehicle during a food distribution in May at the Center for People In Need. None of the soldiers who have helped with distribution efforts and coronavirus testing have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Guard.

An anonymous Nebraska National Guard soldier has reached out to state senators to express concerns about whether Guard personnel are being adequately protected from infection by COVID-19.

While the state's adjutant general has provided "clear guidance" on the need to wear masks and practice social distancing, that guidance is "widely ignored by officers and enlisted alike," the person wrote in an email sent Sunday to senators and members of the news media.

"We are about to send hundreds of Nebraska's sons and daughters to Arkansas to train in the middle of a global pandemic," the Guard member wrote.

Asked to respond to those concerns, Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska's adjutant general, said "we are taking measures to ensure that Guard members are protected (and) while we acknowledge that we can't stop training, it may not be performed as robustly" as a result of the virus.

Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac

Bohac

The National Guard announced Wednesday it had modified its summer training plans. Arkansas officials canceled the exercise that the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron had planned to attend. Instead, the squadron will take part in modified annual training maneuvers in Nebraska.

The change in plans impacts about 280 soldiers.

Twenty-eight members of the Guard have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but not all of those cases are duty-related. No Guard members have been hospitalized.

Two members of National Guard who assisted Lincoln police during protests test positive for coronavirus

Thirteen have tested positive while on duty, all but one after activation associated with law enforcement during recent civil unrest.  

No one who was involved in Guard activities related to COVID-19 testing of Nebraskans at various sites throughout the state or on duty at food banks has tested positive.

Camp Ashland is available for quarantine of Guard members if needed, Bohac noted.  

The concerns expressed in the letter appear to be overstated, the general suggested.

"Knowing soldiers, there always are some that don't want to comply," Bohac said. "Sometimes, it's up to the commanders and sergeants to get people back in line."

LPD officer who worked protests tests positive for COVID-19; more National Guard cases found

But sometimes it's the sergeants and the officers who ignore the need to wear masks and practice social distancing, the letter writer stated.

"I am a combat veteran who has served more than 15 years in the Nebraska National Guard and I am doing something I never thought I would have to do," the Guard member wrote.

"I am reaching out to politicians and journalists for help."

National Guardsmen based in Lincoln headed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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