The Georgia State Defense Force’s 4th Brigade has been on active duty since the start of the pandemic, providing support by making Disaster Food Boxes for distribution to Georgians in need. The 4th Brigade was able to achieve significant milestones during this mission by developing their skills and speed were able to box 935 Disaster Food boxes per hour. Here is the article:
By Capt. Patricia daCosta
In the past few years, south Georgia has dealt with various natural disasters, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Now, a different force of nature persists—a pandemic.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents a threat to the health and financial well-being of the people of south Georgia and elsewhere in the nation. For many, the pandemic has affected their ability to bring home a paycheck that would put food on their tables.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for the Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) to live up to its “Ready to Serve” motto at Second Harvest of South Georgia, a Valdosta area food bank. Second Harvest serves nearly a 12,000-square-mile region made up of 26 counties.
Community volunteers typically support the Second Harvest of South Georgia by providing the manpower needed to fill food boxes and ensure their distribution to the community. All of that changed when national shelter-in-place orders took effect. Faced with a diminished volunteer pool and growing food needs, the area food bank called upon the GSDF. Hearing the call, the volunteer Soldiers of the GSDF readily responded—sorting and packing thousands of boxes of non-perishable food and fresh produce that fed the citizens of south Georgia.
Day 1: 200 Boxes Per Hour!
State defense forces were created as complimentary organizations meant to bring additional resources, personnel, and talent to support state National Guards, as well as other public health and safety organizations within their state.
As the day went on, the GSDF proved more than up to the task at hand. Creating 4,000 boxes of relief food in one day was equivalent to what the site typically produces in a week.
Day 2: 935 Boxes Per Hour!
When it is said that GSDF’s volunteer Soldiers bring talent, believe it. Almost half have prior military experience, and all of them bring various work experiences that make them valuable assets to the states they serve.
As it turned out, many of the Soldiers who volunteered their time and talents to this mission had worked in warehouses in the past. Others were engineers, had served in technical roles, or had been responsible for workflow improvement in warehouses or other organizations.
The Soldiers on this mission shared time-saving ideas on the assembly lines. As the day progressed, the results from these workflow improvements were evident.
Day 5: Efficiencies Soar
Teamwork and idea-sharing created efficiencies that were key to reaching the mission goal. But an increase in completed pallets of disaster boxes also brought an increase in emptied product boxes that needed to be broken down for recycling and an increase in plastic wrap and other waste that needed to be discarded. As well, more completed pallets meant more work that required a forklift. The warehouse had a limited number of employees and was unable to ramp up its team to meet the additional demands.
Again, hidden talents of the GSDF Soldiers surfaced. Several held current forklift operating certifications, obtained through their current or previous careers. While this took a few Soldiers off the line at times, the line teams were able to balance roles to ensure a steady output.
Upon completing the initial goal within the timeline requested, a new goal was announced: 10,000 more disaster food boxes. And when that goal was met, another 10,000 were requested. In all, more than 40,000 disaster boxes (including special boxes for seniors) were packed and palletized within about four weeks by GSDF Soldiers.
Efforts supported by GSDF to provide for community food needs also occurred in Thomasville. The lead unit for this part of the mission was the GSDF’s 5th Brigade, commanded by Col. Robbie Chavis. However, the focus of the work was a little different for this location than in Valdosta. For about four weeks, GSDF Soldiers were assigned to bag fresh produce (eggplant, cucumbers, and various fruits) and rice into sacks for ease of distribution during each week’s POD. Pre-packing the produce into bags in the warehouse ensured that the POD would run more smoothly and quickly. Daily participation varied at this location (from two to 12 Soldiers); however, the effort created nearly 210,000 pounds of bagged fresh produce for the citizens of south Georgia.
GSDF Soldiers—Ready to Serve!
GSDF Soldiers assist the state by serving on missions that include those involving traffic control, debris clearance, and search and rescue. During COVID-19, the GSDF rose to this occasion to help area food banks meet the needs of south Georgia’s citizens. Whatever the mission, the GSDF stands ready to serve!
Source: Georgia State Defense Force