By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota National Guard’s Aviation Support Unit is using its UH 60 Blackhawks to assist the state in being proactive in the fight against COVID-19.

The guard’s Aviation Support group is helping survey the state by air, looking for potential sites for alternative care facilities.

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“We’ve been doing searches for community alternative care sights and in that process, they need to get out to all corners of the state of Minnesota in a rapid way so they can evaluate many sites in one day,” said Major Scott Hawks.

The Minnesota Department of Health, Homeland Security Emergency Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work as one with the guard, determining the best places for these alternative sites.

These teams are also determining if the infrastructure in those areas can support a care facility.

“We have sites all over the state. About half of those will be in the metro and the other half are going to be outstate, we want to make sure every corner of the state has that facility available should it be needed,” Hawks said.

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The potential sites are not being released to the public yet. However the guard emphasized that everyone, no matter who and where they are, will get the care they need.

Aviation support is the main thrust of the Minnesota National Guard’s mission at this point.

The only discussion about use of the Guard’s medical support teams will be on an individual basis and only if needed.

“We want to make sure we are not pulling those medical assets out of the community if we’ve got an emergency room doc who is doing great work in his community and his hospital, we don’t want to bring him into state active duty in support of a Minnesota National Guard mission,” Hawks said.

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For now, the missions on the air will continue until Minnesota’s citizen soldiers are needed elsewhere.

Reg Chapman