DENVER – With an extreme cold front bearing down on Colorado, Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order authorizing the support of up to 100 Colorado National Guard members to assist civil authorities at warming centers across the Denver metropolitan area and Boulder, Colorado, Dec. 20, 2022.
In less than 80 minutes from the time of notification, the first 25 Colorado Air National Guard members volunteered and were prepared to begin onboarding to augment state emergency response efforts at the Denver Colosseum near downtown Denver.
“I love serving,” Task Force Arctic Commander U.S. Air Force Maj. John Moreland said. “I like moving and motivating troops, and I like to be able to assist those who may not otherwise have the service or help we’re about to provide.”
In 2021, just before the New Year’s holiday, the CONG was activated to assist at the Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado.
“During the holiday season, the members of the Colorado Army and Air National Guard are here to help the people of Colorado in times of need, such as the extreme weather event we are about to experience,” said 140th Wing Commander U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Southard. “As Citizen Airmen and Soldiers, we are always ready to support our community members in times of need. It’s an honor to serve our community when called upon.”
During COVID-19 relief efforts in 2020, over 130 service members aided people at shelters in Denver as part of a CONG task force named Shelter Support.
This year, the holiday season began not with heat from a rapidly moving wildfire, but an extreme cold front with a wind chill expected to hit near -50 degrees in some areas around the city. Less than 24 hours after receiving the call, the activated CONG members were mission ready and stood by to assist people seeking shelter.
“The Colorado Guard is assisting … [people] whose resources aren’t as plentiful to not have to bear all of the hardship that comes along with the elements, the cold, and the freezing temperatures,” Moreland said. “Everyone here is a volunteer. They did not have to be here for this mission and so I would say that morale is high, they want to be here, and they believe in what it is we are doing.”
Whether assisting with food service duties, directing foot traffic, checking people into the shelter, or just listening to someone’s story, the Guard members of Task Force Arctic took advantage of every situation to develop relationships, build knowledge, or just lend a hand when times are tough.
“Opportunities like this in our domestic operations portfolio always present an opportunity to exercise leadership skills that you may not otherwise be exercising,” Moreland said. “I think this is a great season of the year to spread holiday cheer so-to-speak, to show love, to show kindness ... I’m excited about being here, and I think its safe to say that all the troops are also.”
Before the day was over, the state emergency operations center granted requests for support at an additional four locations, and another 25 CONG members would answer the short notice call.
“Be it fires, floods, rescue operations … the Colorado National Guard is always ready, and we are present wherever and whenever we are needed,” Moreland said.