As an infantry mortarman in the Indiana National Guard, Andrew Schuler specializes in raining indirect fire on enemy positions.
But in his first activation, the Ball State University junior, is fighting the coronavirus with a clipboard and cleaning supplies.
Schuler is one of about 1,300 Indiana National Guard members deployed through December 31 at nursing homes throughout Indiana. The private first-class has been working 40-45 hours a week along with two others from the National Guard at Golden Living Center in Muncie, not far from the Ball State University campus, since November 1.
“There are days when the staff really appreciates what we are doing,” he said. “I know the staff thinks we are doing a lot to help them. So, I stay motivated that way.”
Schuler, originally from Richmond, is studying finance with a minor in financial planning. He enlisted with the National Guard on October 2019 and serves with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of Warsaw, Indiana.
Soldiers are not permitted to work directly with patients. So, the assignment at Golden Living mostly involves screening staff as they arrive for shifts. Schuler takes temperatures and asks everyone a list of questions, like whether they’ve lost their sense of taste or smell.
“If they answer yes to any questions, we can’t let them into work,” he said.
He and the other soldiers also spend a lot of time sanitizing high-traffic areas. They wear “scrubs” and not a military uniform.
“They didn’t want to make it feel like there was a military presence in the nursing homes,” Schuler said.
The National Guard worked with students to assign them to facilities close to their college or university. Schuler has been able to stay in school during his activation.
“It has been difficult,” he said. “But my professors have been really good with working with me and extending my deadlines.”
Ball State assistant director of Veteran Affairs Jayson Jarrett said he did not have information on how many students were affected by an activation this Fall.
Jarrett emailed students known to be in the National Guard asking if they needed help this Fall balancing their coursework with an activation. None of them reported that they were withdrawing from courses, Jarrett said.
Currently, Schuler’s activation ends at the end of the year.
“But that could change,” he said.