On the front line of the pandemic

Responding to the call from the National Guard

Army 2nd Lt. Jake Cardinal pulls a pallet of latex gloves in a warehouse full of personal protective equipment in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Cardinal’s civilian job is at Raytheon Intelligence & Space; however, after the COVID-19 outbreak, the governor activated Cardinal’s Guard unit. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisamuel Jaime)

In the U.S. Army, the Quartermaster Corps is known for delivering “beans and bullets” and everything else soldiers need.

Since March 27, 2nd Lt. Jake Cardinal, a quartermaster with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, has overseen the delivery of N95 masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment to first responders across the state, who are helping battle the coronavirus.

Cardinal normally serves as a technical writer for Raytheon Intelligence & Space, one of four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies, in Marlborough, Massachusetts. He was called up for duty after the Massachusetts governor declared a state of emergency and activated the Guard.

“The reason I joined the Army was to help my nation,” Cardinal said. “Helping my state and my community … well, that’s just a bonus.”

Cardinal is the officer in charge of a warehouse that’s shipping and receiving Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency protective equipment and supplies to fire departments, police stations and nursing homes. He has a team of soldiers — warehouse staff and drivers — working 12-hour days.

“We’ve made deliveries to about 300 towns; we’ve been to every corner of the Commonwealth and that includes Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod and Nantucket,” Cardinal said. “This is very personal to me — these are the towns where I grew up and lived.”

Like Cardinal, Brig. Gen. Mark Merlino answered the call. Merlino has worked many national emergencies during his 34-year career in the Army National Guard, including Hurricane Katrina and the Boston and Oklahoma City bombings. But nothing could prepare the one-star general for the coronavirus relief effort.

“We have playbooks on pandemics and earthquakes and weapons of mass destruction (attacks), but until you actually do it, the plan goes out the window,” said Merlino, a senior principal engineer at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, another of the four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies. “It’s all about people skills and coordination and being able to talk to each other.”

Merlino is working with soldiers and first responders, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to establish 170 makeshift hospitals across the country.

He’s grateful for a flexible work schedule that allows him to serve his country. As a citizen-soldier, Merlino’s work means “taking rank off our chests and saying we’re all in this together.”

Nichole and Justin Giunto are engineers at the Raytheon Technologies business Pratt & Whitney. They’re also members of the Connecticut National Guard. The couple were both activated to support pandemic relief efforts that include setting up temporary hospitals, providing medical personnel and transporting medical and logistics equipment and supplies.

“This recent activation was short notice, and I appreciate the support and understanding from my coworkers, managers and leadership team,” Nichole said of Pratt & Whitney’s response to her sudden deployment.

Among other Pratt & Whitney employees who have been called to duty to aid Connecticut’s COVID-19 response is engineer Daniel Terral, who serves as a National Guard first lieutenant. Terral’s brigade has helped convert hospitals and universities into COVID-19 step-down facilities, providing 610 patient beds across three Connecticut locations: Western Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University and Stamford Hospital, an Army Reserve medical task force site.

“The setup at Stamford Hospital has been the most impactful of our missions so far. They’ve been seeing patients since April 13,” he said. “We’ve also distributed critically-needed ventilators to hospitals. For example, Greenwich Hospital only had three ventilators on hand and we resupplied them with an additional seven.”

Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Raytheon Missiles & Defense are part of Raytheon Technologies, which is using its manufacturing capacity, and engineering, logistics and finance expertise, to carry out initiatives that serve our communities, deliver on our commitments to our customers and protect our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about our efforts.