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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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Students in National Guard on front lines of COVID-19 outbreak

For some students, the switch to online learning has been an uphill battle. But many in the Colorado State University community are involved in a different fight — one on the front lines of the pandemic.

Josh Johnson, a senior studying industrial-organizational psychology, serves a number of roles within the Colorado community. Johnson is a senator for Adult Learner and Veteran Services with the Associated Students of CSU, president of the Student Veterans Organization at CSU and first sergeant in the 140th Medical Group with the Colorado Air National Guard. 

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In a phone interview with The Collegian, Johnson said he received a text message from his commander on April 6 telling him to report Monday at 8 a.m. in Denver. “I had to get a haircut Sunday night in my kitchen,” Johnson said.

He said that he and one other officer were given instructions to go to Cortez, Colorado, in Montezuma County and assist the emergency operations center. Some of the work he has done in the county has been helping with personal protection equipment donation requests, as well delivering for Meals on Wheels.

I’m supposed to be graduating this semester, and I figured, why not volunteer for this and continue the tradition of missing finals? I can afford to miss some assignments, especially when helping people is more important. Who am I to sit back when there’s better men than me down there?” Robert Gray, a CSU senior and specialist with the 193rd Military Police

In an email to The Collegian, Johnson wrote that the National Guard distributed 282 boxes of food, weighing 40 pounds each, for over three hours. 

“The first thing we did was help organize the file plan and make it a digital file plan by creating a drop box so we could have all the files that are happening for this emergency in one location,” Johnson said. “We want whatever we do to be manageable for when we leave.”

Johnson said that several of his professors have been working with him, and without the flexibility of deadlines, he would be unable to graduate on time. Most of his days are spent with the National Guard, leaving his nights for catching up on lectures and assignments.

“The military prepares you for unknown situations, and this is a perfect example of an emergency situation that people were not all that prepared to handle, where we were able to come in and be useful,” Johnson said.

Robert Gray, a CSU senior and specialist with the 193rd Military Police, wrote in an email to The Collegian that he hasn’t had the typical experience combating the pandemic. He has partly been responsible for locating medical supplies in the National Guard’s inventory so they can be sent out to locations that need them.

“Mainly I’ve been looking for ventilators, which have been a hot item right now, and because I’m a medic, I generally know what they are and how to see if they work,” Gray said. “I’ve spent most of my time in Denver, but I personally am not ‘on the front lines’ like others.”

Gray said that most of his experience with the Army was focused on preparing for combat operations and that this mission of supporting a state emergency is totally new to him. However, he said that morale has been high. 

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During his last three years at CSU, Gray has had to leave before finals because of military orders, but he said that his professors have been extremely supportive. According to Gray, this semester’s transition has been the most seamless.

“I’m supposed to be graduating this semester, and I figured, why not volunteer for this and continue the tradition of missing finals?” Gray said. “I can afford to miss some assignments, especially when helping people is more important. Who am I to sit back when there’s better men than me down there?”

Ryan Geddes is a fourth-year horticulture student and a Colorado Army National Guard member with the 147th Brigade Support Battalion. His specific task force is comprised of soldiers and airmen from the Colorado Enhanced Response Force Package, Geddes wrote in an email to The Collegian.

“Because of our specialized ability to respond to chemical, biological and radiological threats, we have been activated by Governor (Jared) Polis to assist the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment in their efforts to increase testing capacity,” Geddes said. “The majority of our efforts have revolved around the Denver area, but we have assisted CDPHE with testing as far as Telluride, … Greeley and Pueblo.”

Geddes said he enlisted after his freshman year at CSU because he wanted to continue the line of generations of service in his family and wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself.

“I know that the first day we got to work, it fulfilled exactly the reasons why I joined,” Geddes said. 

Geddes said that it has been a challenge to keep up with school and do his mission for the last three months, adding that he has late nights in the hotel room watching lectures, doing homework and studying. The support of his professors has been first-class in accommodating his busy schedule, Geddes said. 

“Although it has been a challenge, the motivation to serve the people of our great state of Colorado pushes me to do my best in our operations and in my studies,” Geddes said. “The gratitude from the people we interact with and knowing that as a CSU student and soldier I am able to make an impact on the community is what keeps me going. Rams take care of more than just Rams.”

Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.

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About the Contributor
Noah Pasley
Noah Pasley, News Editor
Noah Pasley is a senior journalism and media communication major with a minor in English. He is excited to continue his career with The Collegian and spend more time focused on reporting on social issues as well as reporting on breaking news in the Colorado State University and Fort Collins communities. As news editor, Pasley is hoping to spend more time in the community following stories and uplifting student voices. When he isn’t writing, he’s usually hunkered down with a video game and a good playlist. As a senior, Pasley is very excited to get underway with the rest of his college experience. He is most interested in learning more about the world of film and video, which he also explores daily as the Tuesday night entertainment anchor over at CTV 11. Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.

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