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Excellence at work

Guard’s JTF Steelhead served state well

Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, The Adjutant General of Washington State, spoke about the Guard’s excellent work during the End of Mission Ceremony for Joint Task Force Steelhead. Photo credit: JM Simpson

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A page in the history of the Washington National Guard was turned a week ago on the parade grounds of Camp Murray during an End of Mission Ceremony for Joint Task Force (JTF) Steelhead.

Steelhead was the name of the Guard's response to the COVID-19 pandemic from March 15, 2020 to July 31, 2021, and it was under the command of Col. Kevin McMahan.

"This task force and all of its subordinate units embody the spirit of our National Guard," began Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, The Adjutant General of Washington State. "You have done a superb job during an exceptionally difficult time, and I am so very proud of you."

Since March of 2020, over 2,200 Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized in support of assorted missions to meet the worst health crisis the nation has faced in over a century.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Guard personnel vaccinated over 255,000 individuals; assembled about 450,000 test kits which consisting of 2,244,000 individual tests; set up and ran COVID test sites where over 75,000 people were tested; conducted over 18,000 contact tracing interviews; closed 318,000 unemployment cases; delivered 457 ventilators and 418 beds to hospitals in need; worked at over 85 food banks across the state; packed nearly 100 million pounds of food; and provided nearly 7 million meals to individuals in need.

Daugherty pointed out that while JTF Steelhead completed its mission, the Guard still had over 3,000 Guard members globally deployed; another 1,500 soldiers and airmen called to service during civil disturbances in Washington state and Washington DC; and a number of personnel who fought the forest fires of 2020 and are now fighting the fires of 2021.

"It been a busy time," Daugherty said, "and you have done everything with excellence."

This excellence materialized in food banks where Guard personnel streamlined operations at every food bank where they served.  

It also appeared at a food distribution warehouse in Seattle. Personnel turned the operation into the most efficient distribution center in the nation, becoming an award-winning model of Lean Management Principles.

When citizens needed unemployment benefits and could not receive them because the Employment Security Department was overwhelmed with claims and fraud, the Guard's attention to excellence filled in to help meet the need.

And last, when it became evident that the system of distributing vaccines could not meet the demand of citizens seeking vaccinations, "our Governor knew ... we would move quickly to administer vaccinations across the state to save lives," Daugherty said.

He then read a comment made by the late Peter Drucker, an American management consultant, who wrote that "It is the willingness of people to give of themselves over and above the demands of the job that distinguishes the great from the merely adequate organization."

Finishing the quote, Daugherty looked out at the assembled soldiers and airmen and clearly stated, "That's what we do; that's who we are."

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