GRANDVIEW — Only one year removed from receiving his high school diploma, U.S. Army Washington National Guard member Private-First Class Kevin Sanchez is proudly serving the community with frontline distinction as he, along with a 25-team detachment took part in carrying out COVID-19 testing operations at Harrison Middle School last week.
The 19-year-old said he never thought about joining the Army National Guard prior to attending a college fair as a junior when he decided to walk up and randomly speak with a recruiter.
“There were a lot of great opportunities there but what really interested me more was joining the military,” Sanchez recalled of the fair. The next day, he was filling out paperwork and securing his enlistment slot following graduation.
In September of 2019, Sanchez received orders and reported to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. After successfully completing the 10-week bootcamp, the Army Guard soldier was assigned to attend motorized operations school at the fort. He spent an additional six weeks learning to drive all-wheel vehicles and equipment used to transport personnel and cargo over varied terrain and roadways.
He returned home in the middle of February and was activated for service on April 21 to initially serve as part of the COVID response team supporting Second Harvest food bank distribution efforts throughout Yakima County and in the Tri-Cities.
“… I feel great about serving everywhere, you’re helping out a lot of families. But it’s really touching to be here in your hometown, assisting the community and people in need,” Sanchez stated as he smiled upon seeing former classmates and teachers in uniform while boxing up food or registering them for COVID-19 testing.
According to the Department of Health, the Washington National Guard helped box more than 7.7 million pounds of food and assembled more than 23,000 meals. The Guard has reduced its deployment last week while maintaining 400 Guard members for continued support of food bank. State emergency planning teams are working to develop a state-supported civilian staffing solution to meet the ongoing food security personnel needs going forward.
Over the past three months, Sanchez has extended his orders multiple times to aid the community in various mobilized roles during the pandemic. “Every day when I wear my uniform, I’m just 100 percent ready to go and get the day started, and make a difference in someone’s life,” the aspiring Perry Technical Institute student conveyed, who plans on pursuing the agricultural technician program.
Both Army National Guard members and Army Reservists can be called into full-time service to support Army combat missions. The main difference is that Guard soldiers serve a dual mission. They can be activated by their state governor or the federal government.
Officer-in-Charge and Second Lieutenant A.J. Davis of Ellensburg said the COVID testing team is made up of individuals from all walks of life with different backgrounds from members of the Air Force and Army National Guard.
“We’re very fortunate to have such talented individuals that we do on this team. They’re very hard workers and all motivated to be here that contributes to how well we’re all working together,” Davis relayed.