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Florida Guard Aids COVID-19 Testing at Veterans Nursing Home

April 20, 2020 | BY Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini , Florida Army National Guard

Florida Army National Guard soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team assisted with COVID-19 testing for veterans and staff at the Alexander Nininger Jr. State Veterans Nursing Home in Pembroke Pines.

Soldiers wearing protective gear conduct a COVID-19 test.
Team Testing
A Florida National Guard soldier from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team tests a staff member for COVID-19 at a state veterans nursing facility in Pembroke Pines, Fla., April 17, 2020. The Florida National Guard is responding to COVID-19 by conducting on-site testing at assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini, Florida Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200417-A-UN364-444

 
The 53rd IBCT's federal mission is to mobilize, execute and deploy to conduct successful combat missions, but the soldiers also are trained and equipped to support local authorities in disaster response for hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Their newest mission is supporting the state's COVID-19 response with trained and equipped service members who are ready to engage and defeat this invisible enemy.

A soldier wearing protective gear swabs a nursing home staff member for a COVID-19 test.
Swab Test
A Florida National Guard soldier from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team tests a staff member for COVID-19 at a state veterans nursing facility in Pembroke Pines, Fla., April 17, 2020. The Florida National Guard is responding to COVID-19 by conducting on-site testing at assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini, Florida Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200417-A-UN364-667A

 
"It's great to give back to the veteran community — they served just like us, and they respect our presence as service members," said Army Spc. Justin McCaffery, an infantryman with the 53rd IBCT. "We are always ready to train and step up to help the community. That's why I joined the National Guard."
 
Aware of the risk that COVID-19 poses to residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the Florida National Guard formed mobile test teams to test the residents in their rooms. The teams go room to room to test residents, while at least one team member tests the facilities' staff members.

A soldier wearing protective equipment pushes a cart holding COVID-19 testing supplies down a hallway.
Nursing Home Rounds
Florida National Guard soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team begin rounds to test residents for COVID-19 at a state veterans nursing facility in Pembroke Pines, F;a., April 17, 2020. The Florida National Guard is responding to COVID-19 by conducting on-site testing at assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini, Florida Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200417-A-UN364-607

 
"Being here for veterans is truly meaningful. They paved the way for us as a country, and as current service members, we have learned a lot from them," said Army Capt. Alex Repp, 2-124 Infantry Company commander . "We are always ready to respond to whatever mission is presented with precision and focus, and that's what we have done here."

Florida has more than 2,300 National Guardsmen on duty in support of the state's COVID-19 response. Soldiers and airmen are operating nine community-based testing sites and have administered more than 50,000 sample collections so far.

Soldiers wearing protective equipment prepare to conduct COVID-19 tests.
Coronavirus Testing
Florida National Guard soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team prepare to test residents and staff for COVID-19 at a state veterans nursing facility in Pembroke Pines, Fla., April 17, 2020. The Florida National Guard is responding to COVID-19 by conducting on-site testing at assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini, Florida Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200417-A-UN364-958

In addition, the Florida Guard is deploying teams to carry out COVID-19 testing at assisted living communities and is supporting the Florida Department of Health's screening operations at seven Florida airports.

(Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini is assigned to the Florida Army National Guard's 107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)