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His finger’s on the pulse

By Sgt. Courtney Rorick

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As businesses and recreation begin to slowly reopen throughout New Hampshire, the requirement for COVID-19 testing grows.

That’s where the skill set of Capt. Benjamin Hagstrom comes into sharp focus. The medical officer for Joint Task Force 197 is the lead planner for the state’s one mobile and six drive-thru testing sites.

It’s a mission that involves more than 100 NH guardsmen at seven different locations.

“None of these missions would be successful without him,” said Maj. Bill White, medical provider for Joint Task Force 197. “Since he has been here, he’s had a finger on the pulse for all things medical.”

When it comes to requesting medical support, Hagstrom has been able to adjust on the fly to meet the needs of the mission, White added.

Under JTF 197, Hagstrom’s responsibilities include tracking quarantines, planning the Guard’s medical support, tracking medical personnel, and ensuring they are resourced as well as verifying that his teams are making the right clinical decisions. He is one of five NHNG medical officers currently activated for COVID-19 relief operations.

“This has been an excellent opportunity to help our organization and our state,” Hagstrom said. “It is rewarding to be able to use our field-specific training in application with real world missions.”

Partnered with Hagstrom is Staff Sgt. Derek Lavalley, 197th Field Artillery Brigade medical noncommissioned officer.

“Captain Hagstrom coming on board has been extremely impactful,” Lavalley said “From the get go he’s made it a lot easier for us to balance the task force and ongoing, day-to-day missions.”

Hagstrom and Lavalley also handle the in-processing of newly activated guardsmen for JTF 197. They check nearly every soldier before they’re assigned to their particular COVID-19 relief mission.

“Being a part of this community myself, I feel an added sense of duty and obligation,” Hagstrom said. “This mission is tangible and directly impacts the people I live and work with. That layer of immediacy has made this mission that much more rewarding.”