Last summer, Student Affairs was honored to welcome Jolene Anders back to the UW–Madison campus after nearly two years of Active Duty service with the Wisconsin National Guard. Anders shares her story during Veterans Month. We thank Jolene for her sacrifices and dedication to serving our country, and are so happy to have her back supporting military-connected students at UW–Madison.
Anders, a Veteran Services Coordinator at University Veteran Services, was activated as part of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response in March 2020 and assigned to a pandemic response mission, where she spent most of her time tracking the location of soldiers and airmen serving in different capacities across the state.
“We had roughly 25 teams that were frequently moving, so it was incredibly important to record where everyone was,” Anders explains.
“Our personnel needs grew significantly during the first few months of the mission, meaning we were frequently adding new people to our rosters and shuffling personnel around. It’s a challenge to keep tabs on that many people, but it’s crucial to make sure no one slips through the cracks.”
As part of the state-wide mission, National Guard members supported dozens of testing sites and collected over 250,000 specimens for testing, provided medics to assist at senior living facilities, supported self-isolation facilities, supplemented mortuary affairs teams, and served as poll workers. By the time Anders transitioned off the pandemic response mission in August 2020, there were over 1,000 National Guardsmen activated throughout Wisconsin.
Some of Anders’s other duties included tracking positive COVID-19 cases within the National Guard, completing paperwork for payroll, and processing awards. She was also able to utilize her experience and knowledge from University Veteran Services to advise service members about their GI Bill benefits and preparing for school.
Anders spent the remainder of her time on Active Duty orders supporting her prior unit, the Wisconsin Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP). According to Anders, the CERFP is a joint disaster response effort consisting of Army and Air Force elements with search and extraction, medical, decontamination, communications, and fatality recovery capabilities. In this unit, Anders was responsible for ensuring the CERFP had the funding necessary to complete required training and evaluations, and to run daily operations.
Photos from a Wisconsin CERFP training event from August 14-18, 2021.
Anders finished her Active Duty time on June 24, 2022. She has previously been deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and even though this mission did not require her to venture too far from her home in Madison, she says this experience was challenging in a different way.
“In response to the pandemic, I was activated with less than 24-hours’ notice with no understanding of what our mission would be or how long I would be away,” says Anders. “This is a reality of military service that many people encounter, but it was the first time in my career I felt completely unprepared for what was next. I learned how to be resilient and flexible despite a level of unknown I’ve never experienced before.”
“I’m incredibly passionate about working with our military-connected students, and I’m excited to use my experiences over the last two years to better support our students who are currently serving in the National Guard or Reserves,” Anders says. “Juggling a military career with school and work is a huge commitment, and I’m dedicated to finding new avenues to help our students succeed at both.”