MANSFIELD -- Ohio Air National Guard members from Mansfield are working in and around the state's prison personnel as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The local airmen are part of about 300 Ohio National Guard members filling gaps in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction personnel.
The guard members are providing medical and operational support at several facilities: Pickaway and Marion Correctional Institutions, the Ohio Reformatory for Women and the Franklin Medical Center, which treats prison inmates from around Ohio.
The state's prisons have been among the hardest-hit facilities during the pandemic. As of last week, more than 4,300 inmates and prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 40 inmates and two staff members have died.
"None of the guard members supporting the ODRC are armed," said Stephanie Beougher, public information officer with the Ohio Adjutant General's Department in Columbus.
About a dozen members of the 179th Airlift Wing are supporting medical and security forces at the Marion Correctional Institution, Beougher said.
The airlift wing, based at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, has its own medical group and security forces squadron.
Beougher said a "small group" from the 200th RED HORSE Squadron, which has a detachment at Mansfield Lahm, worked with the Ohio Army National Guard to set up temporary housing at two facilities at Pickaway Correctional Institution and the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville.
RED HORSE is an acronym for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer, which serves as the Air Force's heavy-construction units. Their combat engineering capabilities are similar to those of the U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S. Army heavy-construction organizations.
The RED HORSE members continue to support the temporary housing by overseeing the water supply and operation of the showers when in use, Beougher said.