From Landslides and Wildfires to COVID-19: WADS Airman Answers the Call

  • Published
  • By By Maj. Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

Supporting the citizens of Washington state during times of need is nothing new to Capt. Nicole Stefaniak, an intelligence officer with the Western Air Defense Sector.

Stefaniak volunteered to support the Oso landslide recovery efforts in 2014 as a search and extraction medic. In 2015, she supported Washington’s largest wildfire season in state history by managing the radios at a fire camp in Colville. Now, Stefaniak has stepped up again to assist during the Washington National Guard’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It's such a fantastic feeling to get that call for volunteers, knowing that by putting on the uniform, you are going to be helping those people in your community who need it the most,” said Stefaniak.

Stefaniak is currently serving on the Joint Task Force Steelhead command staff at the Pierce County Readiness Center located at Camp Murray. She helps provide information requirements and analysis that has the potential to affect Guardsmen and operations throughout Washington state.

Her duties are wide ranging. She works with the Washington State Fusion Center, which supports public safety and homeland security missions of state, local, tribal agencies and private sector entities. Stefaniak provides the mission orientation briefs that bring incoming Guardsmen up to speed on the JTF mission and what they need to know to successfully execute the mission . She also gives predictive weather briefings to keep personnel safe at COVID-19 testing sites.

“Getting to serve the people in our communities was a huge draw for me to join the Washington Air National Guard,” commented Stefaniak. “It really makes you feel connected to your home and feel like you have a higher purpose.”

Stefaniak explained her involvement in the Washington National Guard’s response to COVID-19 will have profound effects on her for a lifetime just like her experience in the Oso landslide recovery.

“The impact that Oso (landslide) had, while it was an unthinkable tragedy, it also brought the community together in a way that was so inspiring,” she said. “I felt really blessed to get to be a part of something like that and that has really given me a passion to be able to give back to the community whenever times get tough… just like they are now!”