The vaccine rollout and civil unrest is keeping the National Guard busy after an 'unprecedented' 2020

A National Guard medic, left, checks vital signs of a patient outside a hospital in California's Apple Valley last month amid a surge in Covid-19 patients.

(CNN)The US National Guard was so busy last year with "unprecedented" domestic deployments -- helping with Covid-19, civil unrest and natural disasters -- it referred to 2020 as Year of the Guard.

So far, this year is no slouch, either.
In the nation's capital, about 6,200 Guard members from six states and the District of Columbia are gathering to support law enforcement after rioters stormed the halls of Congress.
      In Wisconsin, the governor sent Guard members to Kenosha this week ahead of prosecutors' Tuesday announcement that police officers won't be charged in the Jacob Blake shooting.
        And across the country, National Guard members have been toiling in all kinds of roles to fight the coronavirus pandemic -- helping at testing sites, delivering protective equipment, sanitizing elderly care facilities and, more recently, helping to get vaccine shots into arms.
          Nearly 20,500 National Guard members were working across the country on Covid-19 relief efforts as of Thursday. They represent the majority of Guard members currently deployed domestically, the Guard says.
          With most holding civilian jobs until they're called up for overseas and homeland missions, Guard members are commonly activated stateside for natural disasters, as they were last year for wildfires and severe storms.
          But 2020 put more on their plates.
          At its busiest, the National Guard had more than 86,400 members serving stateside in early June, largely for Covid-19 or civil disturbances in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, the Guard says.
          "Those are numbers that you just wouldn't think about as a Guardsman in these days and times," Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa said last month.
          From left, Mississippi National Guard Spc. Timothy Kelly, state health department environmentalist  Anthony Claytor and Spc. Hinton Lindun check paperwork for a patient at the Covid-19 vaccine drive-through clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Tuesday.

          Some are inoculating people against Covid-19

          Guard members are increasingly helping with the country's Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
          In New Hampshire, they're helping put shots into people's arms.
          The state has set up 13 drive-through vaccination sites for qualified residents -- such as first responders -- at places like school parking lots and rented property, said Paul Raymond Jr., spokesman for the New Hampshire Joint Information Center.
          About 100 Guard members are split among the sites, making sure the vaccines get there, managing traffic and signing people in. And a few with health backgrounds -- medics and nurses -- administer the shots.
          It's been part of a whirlwind year for Maj. Lindsey Whelan, the New Hampshire Air National Guard's chief nurse, who was activated just a few weeks ago to oversee a site in Nashua that's receiving about 200 patients a day.
          Apart from the Guard, she's an intensive care nurse and trauma program manager at Manchester's Elliot Hospital. She left maternity leave in September to join her colleagues at the hospital in the thick of the pandemic.
          She says it's encouraging to be on the vaccine side of things.
          "I spent the better half of last year with colleagues, watching Covid patients come through and seeing how their family and friends are suffering. It's nice to be on the other side of this ... and prevent patients from getting it in the first place," Whelan told CNN Wednesday.
          Maryland, too, is having its National Guard administer shots and give logistical support. This week it's sending teams to help local health departments with their clinics, according to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
          Spc. Madalyn Stella, combat medic, 197th Field Artillery Brigade, administers a Covid-19 vaccination to Stacy Gillis, a civilian paramedic, Dec. 29 in Exeter, New Hampshire.

          Some are training others to administer the shots

          In Arizona, National Guard medics are training or retraining medical students and retired medical workers to give shots. The students and retirees had volunteered to help the state administer the Covid-19 vaccines.
          Guard medics started training the volunteers on Monday. Two days later, some of the volunteers were already giving shots at a vaccination center in Maricopa County, according to the Arizona National Guard.
          "This is a monumental call to service that requires a whole-of-communuity approach to accomplish," Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire, director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, said of the volunteers.

          Others are answering phone calls and helping with tests

          In New York, Guard members are helping at 15 drive-through Covid-19 testing sites, putting together test kits. They are also screening passengers at 12 airports across the state, the Guard says.
          It also created and ran field hospitals like the one at Manhattan's Javits Convention Center, where the Guard says more than 1,000 coronavirus patients were treated.
          A member of the New York Army National Guard hands out health forms to travelers wearing protective masks at LaGuardia Airport on December 24.
          New Mexico's National Guard says its members are helping store, transport and administer vaccine doses.
          In New Hampshire, besides the more than 100 members working at the vaccination sites, some 300 others are working on other virus-related tasks, including helping to operate a state call center, fielding questions like where to get tested or vaccinated.
          Since April, it also has been operating a warehouse for personal protective equipment and distributing that equipment to hospitals, businesses, schools and polling sites across the state.
          At the New Hampshire Guard's busiest moment last summer, more than 700 were activated for eight different efforts supporting the state against Covid-19, says Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn.
          The pandemic activations are "unprecedented" for the New Hampshire National Guard, both for the variety and duration of the missions, he says.
          "We've never seen anything like this in our modern history for noncombat-related activation," Heilshorn said.