From business owners to casino workers, record number of Nevada Guardsmen put careers aside to aid COVID response

Denise Del Porto, right, a supervisor at International Gaming Technology (IGT), discusses employer support of military service members with Nevada Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, center, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Spaulding on Feb. 12. IGT was among 98 Nevada businesses and organizations to receive a Patriot Award this winter for supporting the Guard.

Denise Del Porto, right, a supervisor at International Gaming Technology (IGT), discusses employer support of military service members with Nevada Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, center, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Spaulding on Feb. 12. IGT was among 98 Nevada businesses and organizations to receive a Patriot Award this winter for supporting the Guard. Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka / Nevada Air National Guard



For about two months in early 2020, Maj. Gregory Green of the Nevada Air National Guard didn’t see much sunlight.

Not only was Maj. Green activated by the Nevada National Guard to help with the state’s response to the escalating coronavirus pandemic over a year ago, he also was trying to keep his ecommerce business afloat.


Green’s venture, G7 Corporation, which specializes in selling can cooler sleeves and LED light bulbs, saw sales plummet in March 2020, and he wasn’t sure when — or if — they would bounce back.


“It was nerve-racking,” said Green, whose work office is based in South Reno. “I was probably putting in 16-hour days. I would get up at 3:30 (a.m.), be at my office by 4, work until maybe 6:30, and then drive out to the state warehouse and work out there for the remainder of the day (for the Nevada Guard).”


Green was one of more than 1,200 Guardsmen activated to help Nevada ramp up COVID-19 testing, manage large-scale distribution of essential items — from personal protective equipment to food — as well as work bilingual call centers. All told, 2020 marked the largest and lengthiest state activation in Nevada National Guard history.


“Our country was in a crisis, and it was the Guard’s time to step to the plate,” Green said. “There were a lot of people activated — and there still are — and they love helping. It’s a horrible situation, but the Guard really takes pride in helping the community.


“… I think the proudest that I’ve ever seen our members is when they’re in their own community helping their neighbors or town or city.”


Business balancing act

What many Nevadans might not be aware of is a majority of these men and women putting in long days and weekends to assist the state’s COVID response have full or part-time jobs that they had to temporarily leave.

Others, like Green, are small business owners tasked with keeping their venture up and running while they’re activated, even if it means starting their workday at 4 a.m.

Maj. Gregory Green, left, of the Nevada Air National Guard presents the Meritorius Service Medal to Master Sgt. Bryan Sanchez at his retirement ceremony in June 2019. Maj. Green, who owns a local ecommerce company, G7 Corporation, said 2020 was “nerve-racking” trying to run a business while also working for the Guard. Photo: Senior Airman Baylee Hunt / Nevada Air National Guard

 

“Widespread, I don’t think people realize how it (the National Guard) works — where we come from, what we do,” Green said. “Maybe they know their neighbor puts on a uniform once a month, but I don’t know if they connect that with hundreds of us being called upon to run the testing lines and do the warehousing and operate the state’s response.”

Specifically, as COVID tightened its grip last spring, Green was activated to help the state map out and manage a logistics plan for the movement of PPE, ventilators and other “high-demand items” that were running in short supply at hospitals in Nevada.


This included helping build the software that ran inventory management for three warehouses the state was operating early in the pandemic. The exact locations of the warehouses are confidential and have changed multiple times over the past year, he noted.


Meanwhile, though Green’s ecommerce business was hit hard last March, it swiftly recovered a month later.


With stay-at-home orders in effect and COVID cases spreading quickly, online shopping exploded to unprecedented levels — so much so that G7 Corporation’s revenue in the second quarter of 2020 (April to June) ended up being five times that of Q2 in 2019, Green said.


“April online sales started going through the roof because no one was shopping in person,” Green said. “I went from questioning if I was staying in business to the most sales that I’ve ever had.”


While glad his ecommerce business is booming, Green said he “feels guilty” knowing that many restaurants and brick-and-mortar businesses in Reno-Sparks and beyond are on the opposite end of the spectrum.


“They’re really suffering right now, so I almost feel bad saying that I’m doing well,” he said. “So, my wife and I go out to eat three times a week. I want to help out, too, and not just be the guy doing well while other people are hurting.”


‘A great honor’


More recently, the Nevada Guard has been especially busy running the state’s expansive COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. More than 85% of the state’s tests conducted have included some level of support from the Nevada Guard.


A Nevada Guard Airman conducts a COVID-19 test in November at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in Hungry Valley. More than 1,200 Nevada Guardsmen activated last year to help the state with its pandemic response, the largest and lengthiest state activation in Nevada National Guard history. Photo: Nevada National Guard

 

One of those Guardsmen is Spc. Jermaine Longmire, who’s helped run and manage mobile COVID testing sites across Northern Nevada, primarily in rural areas and on Tribal land.

In doing so, Spc. Longmire left his part-time job at Harrah’s 
Reno Hotel and Casino after the state-mandated shutdown of nonessential businesses last March.

Harrah’s days were already numbered, as months earlier Caesars Entertainment sold the property to Las Vegas-based developer CAI Investments, which planned to close the downtown resort last June.


As such, Longmire put all of his chips on helping the Nevada Guard support the state as the pandemic progressed. In fact, when he heard the Guard was planning to activate Guardsmen, he immediately volunteered.

“When I joined the Nevada Guard in 2018, my initial reason was I wanted to be part of helping the state in case of any future disasters,” Longmire said. “So, it’s been a really great honor to work in most of the northern regions of Nevada and help out people.”

Still, Longmire said he felt a lot of uncertainty when he left his job at Harrah’s. After all, he had no way to know how long he would be active, and he didn’t have an employer with a job waiting for him.


“It was hard at first because I didn’t know how things were going to work out financially,” he said. “But, now working with the Guard full-time, I’m essentially active duty again. And from my active duty experience, I just knew things were going to be OK.


“So I felt comfortable enough to disembark from my previous job and be full time with the Guard helping out with the COVID response.”


Nevada Army Guard Spc. Jermaine Longmire, center, stands with community members in Owyhee in 2020 at a remote COVID-19 testing site that was managed by the Nevada National Guard. Courtesy photo

 

Nearly a year later, Longmire is still helping. After eight months of assisting with mobile coronavirus testing — which took him north to Owyhee, south to Tonopah and everywhere in-between — Longmire is still staying busy with the Guard.

With the rollout of vaccines accelerating in Nevada, he is currently helping at shot sites dotted in the Quad County region: Carson City, Lyon, Storey and Douglas counties.


Even still, Longmire said he knows the Guard’s COVID operations “aren’t going to last forever” — meaning, when his active duty eventually ends, he will have to look for employment.


“I do have that in the back of my mind that by the end of this, I should look out for a new job and keep my eyes open for other job opportunities,” Longmire said. “But right now, I’m still pretty comfortable with how everything is going.”


Nearly 100 businesses, organizations earn Patriot Awards


To recognize the many businesses in the state that supported Nevada Guardsmen who temporarily left full-time employment to assist the state’s COVID response in 2020, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) organization, in cooperation with the Nevada National Guard, hosted the first ESGR statewide Patriot Award presentation on Feb. 12.


The event, a combination of in-person and virtual, saw more than 100 supervisors and managers from 98 Nevada businesses, companies and organizations receive ESGR Patriot Awards.


The presentation of 120 Patriot Awards was a Nevada ESGR single-day record, due to 2020 marking the largest and lengthiest state activation in Nevada National Guard history.


ESGR Patriot Awards are awarded to civilian supervisors and bosses who have been nominated by Guard or reserve component service members for extraordinary support of the service member and/or their family.


Specifically, the award reflects the efforts made to support service members through a wide range of measures including schedule flexibility, family care and extended leaves of absences, if needed, the Guard said.


“The award presentation is a celebration of patriotism and service and it provides an opportunity to recognize supportive employers and individuals who have gone ‘above and beyond’ to support the Nevada Guard and the state’s reserve warriors,” Steve Seroka, Nevada ESGR Chairman, said in a statement.


The full list of ESGR Patriot Award recipients honored Feb. 12 is as follows: Ameriprise Financial; Ace Fire Systems; Adidas; Aerotek; Allied Universal; Amazon; Amentum - Alion; AMR; Aries Consultants; Art Encounter; Buffalo Wild Wings; Caesars Enterprise; Caesars Entertainment; CaptionCall, LLC; Captioning Center, Henderson, Nev.; Carson City Health & Human Services; CCSD and CCSD Arville Bus Yard; Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center; City of Las Vegas; DPS; City of Reno; City of Reno Public Works; Clark County School District; Clark County School District and Police Department; Community Ambulance; Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; CTI Resource Management Services, Inc.; Culpepper Associates and Security Services; Dept. of Homeland Security; TSA; Division of Parole and Probation; Division of Welfare and Supportive Services; Doctoroo; DSW; Enterprise Holdings; Envision Eyecare; Ethel M Chocolates; Falcon Lumper Services; FCFS Child Haven; FedEx Office; Fletcher Jones Imports; George Raymond Group; GoPro Interiors; Great Plains Enterprise; Herrera Family Dental; Hilton Grand Vacations; Home Depot; International Gaming Technology; Keurig Dr. Pepper; KGHM; Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Market Grill Café; Mears Pipeline; Medicwest Ambulance; MGM Grand Las Vegas; Mineral County Sheriff; Mission Support & Test Services; NACE; NDOT; Nevada Department of Corrections; NEVCAL Trucking; NV Injury Law, LLC; Orkin Pest Control; Panasonic; PF Chang’s; Progressive Insurance; Red Star Foam; Robertson Ready Mix; Ruby Duncan Elementary; SB Landscaping & Design; Securitas Security Services; Securitas USA; Sherwin Williams; Smith’s Marketplace; South West Medical; Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits; Southwest Airlines; Southwest Gas Corporation; Southwest Medical; Spring Valley Hospital; Station Casinos; The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; The Mirage; The Rio; Tiffany & Co. at The Forum Shops; Trilogy Spa Holdings; Union Pacific Railroad; University Police Services Southern Command; UPS Store; Venetian – Palazzo; Vitalant; Walmart; Washoe County Sheriff’s Office; WholeFoods Market; and Wynn Las Vegas.

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