Tractor-trailers arrived at Western Connecticut State University on April 1, 2020, and within hours over 200 beds had been set up by Soldiers and Airmen from the Connecticut National Guard, transforming the O’Neill Center, home of WCSU’s basketball and volleyball teams, into a field hospital for potential patient use in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sgt. Luk Silk, 23, a reconnaissance Soldier with 1-102nd Infantry Regiment and Glastonbury native, takes pride in the opportunity to help Connecticut in its time of need.

“I think it’s pretty meaningful that we were able to set all this up and that it may be used to help the local healthcare infrastructure,” said Silk. “I have friends all over the state, so I identify strongly with Connecticut. Anything to help anyone out is worthwhile.”

Life has drastically changed for people throughout the state during the pandemic; social distancing has grown and daily routines have shifted. Connecticut’s Guardsmen, including Silk, empathize with these changes.

“I was originally supposed to have the week off—I was going to take care of some projects around the house and spend time with my girlfriend,” said Silk. “I had just bought a mountain bike, and I got one ride in before we got the call.”

The task of setting up a field hospital after a quick call-up to state active duty isn’t a typical one for Silk, who works full-time as an auto body technician at Camp Hartell in Windsor Locks. However, being flexible is important, said Silk.

“Accomplishing simple tasks regardless of career field is part of being a Soldier—listening to leadership and being adaptable to accomplish the mission, and right now this is our mission,” said Silk.

Companies within the 1-102nd have been split up and combined with others in an effort to assign Soldiers close to where they live. Working with unfamiliar faces can be a challenging but rewarding adjustment, said Silk.

“It just comes down to noncommissioned officers doing their job leading soldiers and us coming together to get this done and get it done right,” said Silk. “This is a chance for our guys to build camaraderie and see the broader perspective of what we’re capable of.”

Silk said that whatever Connecticut needs to help its response to COVID-19, the National Guard is here to lend a hand.

“Most of us are Connecticut residents just like everyone else,” said Silk. “We want to be able to take care of our families, especially right now. At the end of the day, we’re here to help our fellow Connecticut residents, and we want our families to be safe just like they want their families to be safe.”