BELFAST — Eleven National Guard troops arrived at Waldo County General Hospital this morning to lend a helping hand as the hospital deals with the COVID omicron surge.

Another 17 members of the National Guard arrived at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport as part of Gov. Janet Mills’ announced deployment of Guard troops to 16 health care facilities across the state beginning Jan. 20. Mills activated 169 additional Guard members in response to record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maine, the majority of which are people who are not vaccinated.

“We’re grateful that we can help,” said Spc. 1st Class Daniel Bibeau, who is the leader of the PBMC team. “The National Guard brings together a dynamic group of people from different backgrounds together to serve the community. This is what we signed up for.”

The troops will serve as sitters, environmental services techs and TNAs, a role that is similar to a CNA. They will be deployed at the hospitals through Feb. 25.

“I am grateful to the Maine National Guard and to health care workers across the state who are working day and night to save the lives of Maine people,” Mills said in a Jan. 14 press release. “Maine people must now also do their part to stem this crisis: Please step up and get vaccinated today, regardless of whether it’s your first shot or your third. Doing so may save your life or it may save a child too young to be vaccinated, and it will certainly spare our health care workers and National Guard members.”

These additional Guard members join more than 202 Guard troops already on orders supporting COVID-19 response efforts around the state, including supporting hospital decompression; staffing testing centers and vaccine clinics; helping inventory and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies, and vaccines; and supporting case investigation and laboratory testing.