ALEXANDRIA, La. – More than 660 members of the Louisiana National Guard are assisting with the COVID-19 response, providing medical, engineering and drive-thru testing support.
“Many of our Soldiers are from right here in this community. They live here, they work here, they’re your neighbors and your friends,” said Lt. Col. Marc Prymek, executive officer of the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “We are always looking for what’s coming next, and we’re ready to bring on more Soldiers as those missions dictate. We’re proud to be a part of the team in support of our local and civil authorities.”
The Louisiana National Guard, activated by Gov. John Bel Edwards, has mobilized Soldiers and Airmen throughout the state. They are supporting current operations, including medical support, engineering assessment, shelter security, traffic control point and drive-through testing site support, assistance at food banks, and providing liaison officer teams to Parish Emergency Operations Centers.
“We have been trained on most of the stuff that we are doing here through our medic training and advanced individual training in the Army. Many of the medics here also work in health care on the civilian side,” said Spc. Gage Suire, a medic with the 199th Brigade Support Battalion, 256th IBCT, who is administering nasal swabs at a mobile testing site at the Cajun Dome in Lafayette. As a civilian, Suire works as an emergency room technician in his hometown of Lafayette. “It’s really nice that we can help the community. A lot of us are from around this area, and it feels really fulfilling to be able to come help our own people."
Pvt. Pat Dawsonhassell, a 20-year-old Lake Charles resident with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said he is proud he can help by screening patients at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
Capt. Brandi Tregre, a Madisonville native and commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company under the 256, is the LANG officer in charge of the Cajun Dome testing site. Tregre has been a part of multiple LANG responses to floods and hurricanes over her career.
“This is so much different from anything we’ve had to do before. We are used to fighting a visible enemy or responding to natural disasters that you can see, but this is a different beast out here since we are fighting a virus that we can’t see,” said Tregre, who specializes in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. “We are staying alert, we are staying aware, and we are ready to provide support to any local, state and federal authorities who need it.”
To maintain mission readiness, the LANG is helping keep Soldiers and Airmen healthy by limiting non-mission travel, highlighting hygiene and monitoring the temperature of Guard members.