Ohio National Guard provides temporary housing for state corrections facilities

  • Published
  • By Story by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood
  • 200th RED HORSE

ORIENT, Ohio – The Ohio National Guard is supporting the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to temporarily expand housing at the Pickaway Correctional Institution.

Twenty Airmen of the Ohio Air National Guard’s 200th RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer) Squadron, based at Camp Perry Joint Training Center near Port Clinton, worked with 10 Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard’s 16th Engineer Brigade, based in Columbus, to erect disaster relief bed-down sets (DRBS). The DRBS will help to provide additional sanitized living quarters, showers, and latrines for inmates to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“The DRBS has about 150 beds, plus the full shower and latrine capability,” said Lt. Col. Grady Marcum of the 16th Engineer Brigade. “We stood this up rather quickly and that’s why it’s important our Soldiers and Airmen are prepared to come together quickly and respond like this when called upon. It is our mission, part of our motto: ‘Always Ready, Always There.’”

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith expressed gratitude for the assistance from the Guard.

“Pickaway Correctional Institution is safer because of the Ohio National Guard’s heroism,” Chambers-Smith said. “We are so fortunate to have them on our team as we fight this battle. The actions they are taking will not only ease anxiety of those living in the facility, but our staff who are working tirelessly to protect Ohio. The Guard’s heroic measures inside of our facility include the addition of beds, showers, bathrooms, and hand washing supplies. These items are imperative inside of a correctional facility, especially in the midst of a pandemic. We cannot thank them enough.”

Brig. Gen. James R. Camp, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Air and commander of the Ohio Air National Guard, visited with the Airmen and the Soldiers as they set up the temporary housing.

“What we’re finding, and it’s no surprise given the notion of social distancing, tenacity, and contagiousness of this virus, is there’s a fairly substantial number of outbreaks in some of our correctional facilities,” Camp said. “With that, we’re trying to help mitigate the spread of the virus, taking care of those who have not come in contact and those who have become ill.”

The Ohio National Guard is assisting the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction with medical and operational support at several facilities. Camp said the numbers of Ohio National Guard members supporting Gov. Mike DeWine’s efforts across the state are growing, which he expects to continue until the situation improves.

It’s been a busy year for the 200th RED HORSE. In addition to the DRBS at the Pickaway Correctional Institution, the 200th has also set up temporary housing at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, and the governor activated the squadron in January to support Puerto Rico with the DRBS following a series of earthquakes there.

Tech. Sgt. Amy McDermott, with the 200th RED HORSE Detachment 1 in Mansfield, was involved in both missions.

“Even though it’s an unfortunate situation, it’s an honor to be a part of a team that works so well together. We have an awesome commander, awesome leadership,” McDermott said. “I’m just very proud of my unit.”

Col. Michael Hrynciw, 200th RED HORSE commander, spoke highly of the work his Airmen have been doing and called them an “outstanding team.”

“Just two months ago, some of these same Airmen were down in Puerto Rico setting up two of these DRBS kits and now here they are working alongside our Army engineering brethren in a joint team to support the state of Ohio. Pretty unique from that perspective,” Hrynciw said.

Hrynciw explained how much of a joint effort the whole COVID-19 pandemic response has become, with the Ohio National Guard supporting more than a dozen missions across the state.

“I know our (state-level) Joint Force Headquarters works really hard doing mission analysis and determining how we can help our partner agencies throughout Ohio,” Hrynciw said. “In this case, it’s the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, but, whatever the agency, if there is a need, they can always count on the National Guard to help,” he said.