PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - If you enter Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, the first person you see may be dressed in camouflage. 

"Basically, we're the greeters of the hospital, but we're also enforcing the rules."

For the past month, hundreds of Oregon National Guard and Air National Guard members have been working in hospitals across the state that are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and staffing shortages. The troops are relieving staff from non-clinical roles so they can concentrate on the sick and dying. 

Sgt. Sara Wassam leads the team of troops guarding the entrances and exits at Providence St. Vincent. They make sure visitors are following the strict COVID-19 protocols put in place at the hospital since the Delta variant took hold. 

It may not be the toughest job the 18-year veteran of the Air National Guard has done, but it is one of the most rewarding. 

"We get a lot of thanks from both the employees visitors and patients," Wassam said. "I probably haven’t been thanked so much in my career."

Wassam said she's never seen so much resilience in a staff that never gives up, even though sometimes it seems they're fighting a losing battle. 

"Even though these folks have been through so much, working an incredible amount of hours and just everything they are having to see and go through, they are so positive," she said. "There is still so much love and compassions these caregivers want to give to the patients. You know, I would get tired after working a year-and-a-half, day-in, day-out in this environment."

Asked what she's learned from her experience, Wassam said it's important to remember that "kindness goes a long way."

"We've been through a lot as a community, as a group, but it's really important to be kind ... a smile, a thank you, a hug, appreciation for somebody rather than maybe a snarky attitude."

The plan is for the guard members to remain in Oregon hospitals for the remainder of the month. 

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