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La. Guard focusing on assessments, medical support

Louisiana Fire Marshal Lt. Kevin Billiot and Louisiana National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Clyde Batts examine the ceiling at the England Airpark Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, March 19, 2020. The Louisiana National Guard is helping state fire marshals and the Louisiana Department of Health assess buildings that could be used for patients during the COVID-19 crisis.

Louisiana Fire Marshal Lt. Kevin Billiot and Louisiana National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Clyde Batts examine the ceiling at the England Airpark Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, March 19, 2020. The Louisiana National Guard is helping state fire marshals and the Louisiana Department of Health assess buildings that could be used for patients during the COVID-19 crisis.

PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard, directed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, activated 238 Soldiers and Airmen March 19 to assist with the COVID-19 response.

More than 100 Soldiers and Airmen are stationed at three sites in Jefferson Parish and New Orleans to assist local agencies with COVID-19 testing. The drive-up testing stations have begun receiving testing kits and protective equipment and are about to begin testing.

"It's invaluable," said Collin Arnold, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in New Orleans. "When these Soldiers come here, they're mission-oriented. Sometimes it's a little difficult, even within your own city government, to understand that when we get into these situations, you just have to roll and keep going until it's over. That's what they do. When you give them a mission, like we've given them a mission to assist us at these pods, they get it done."

Members of the Guard's 225th Engineer Brigade are around the state helping Louisiana fire marshals and the Louisiana Department of Health assess facilities that can be used if hospitals overflow with patients.

The Louisiana National Guard has mobilized to support current operations, including medical support, engineering assessment, shelter security, traffic control and drive-through testing. Guard members are also providing liaison officer teams to Parish Emergency Operations Centers.

"Aside from our Guardsmen already responding, we are continuing to lean forward and plan for possible follow-on missions that we may be called upon to perform," said Brig. Gen. D. Keith Waddell, adjutant general of the LANG. "As our missions develop and increase, today's preparations will lead to tomorrow's success."

To assist civil authorities, the LANG is ensuring the health and safety of its Soldiers and Airmen by limiting non-mission travel, educating and enforcing CDC-recommended hygiene measures, and monitoring Guard members' temperature and health daily.

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