Story by Staff Sgt. Justin Andras, Indiana Air National Guard
Indiana National Guard troops from the 519th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Terre Haute, and the 38th Special Troops Battalion, Kokomo, assisted the Indiana Department of Correction with warehouse operations at the Plainfield Correctional Facility on April 14, 2020. The Guard fulfilled 1,170 commissary orders on day one of the mission after limitations to the correctional industries were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our main focus is the safety and security of the facility, our offenders and the outside population,” said Lloyd Arnold, chief operating officer of the Indiana Correctional Industries. “What a relief it was when the Guard said they could help.”
Due to the global pandemic, the facility decided it was in its best interest that offenders staffing in the warehouse be temporarily discontinued as they sought the help of the Indiana National Guard to fill this void. The facility’s warehouse, a component of the Indiana Correctional Industries, is responsible for supplying commissary items for more than 27,000 Indiana offenders at 21 facilities throughout the state. Items such as personal hygiene products, food items and magazines can be purchased by offenders through this program.
“This is one of our most important industries because it supports the offender population,” said Arnold, an Indiana National Guard veteran.
“Our mission is to give these men job opportunities while incarcerated and give them soft skills they can use when released.” Further concern about the interruption of the IDOC’s commissary component was what ultimately led deputy commissioner of operations, James Basinger, Arnold and others to formally request the assistance of the National Guard. Basinger and Arnold, both military veterans, knew that if the commissary operation were to be disrupted it would cause problems across the entire state. To support the growing needs of all state agencies, including IDOC, the Indiana National Guard was recently activated by Governor Eric J. Holcomb to serve the community where needed.
“In times like this it’s best when we all come together to work towards the common goal to overcome this,” said Capt. Adam Foss, commander of the 138th Composite Supply Company, Brazil, and officer in charge at the facility.
“Every mission for us is different and nothing is exactly the same, but we are very adept at taking on these odd situations.”
Dealing with a considerable backlog of commissary orders,
Foss knew there was a significant challenge ahead to get the facility back on track, in addition to the added requirements that his team maintain proper social distancing and wear personal protective equipment at all times.
However, Foss was confident his group was capable and willing to hurdle this obstacle.
“We’re Hoosiers, we’re doers and we find ways to take care of our neighbors and our problems,” said Arnold, who admires the spirit of Indiana under Governor Holcomb’s leadership.
“Under his leadership it is immense, having the Guard in here shows how well we work together.”