La. Guard increases its response force, mission support
The Louisiana National Guard, as directed by Governor John Bel Edwards, now has over 1,340 soldiers and airmen assisting with the COVID-19 response.
The LANG has mobilized Guardsmen throughout the state to support current operations, including: medical, engineering assessment, and commodities distribution support, shelter assistance, traffic control point and drive-through testing site support, proper PPE training, assistance at food banks, and to provide liaison officer teams to Parish Emergency Operations Centers.
In Orleans Parish, Guardsmen have assisted in the setup of the Morial Convention Center temporary hospital and personal housing units, now with over 770 patient-ready beds.
"What's going on in New Orleans is a tremendous collaborative effort, and we are making significant improvements to the medical capabilities and surge capacity of the city and state,” said Brig. Gen. Lee Hopkins, newly appointed Dual Status Commander of Task Force Louisiana. “I am surrounded by outstanding men and women and am honored to have the privilege to lead this historic dual-status Task Force."
While providing support to testing sites in four parishes to include Orleans, Jefferson, Calcasieu, and Lafayette, Louisiana Guardsmen aided in the testing of over 1,300 citizens thus far. On Thursday, the testing site in Orleans started using the new self-test kits.
"There is less patient contact with the new test kit, and it's less invasive than the test that we were administering before," said Tech. Sgt. Tyquan Jordan, a Louisiana Air National Guardsman with the 159th Medical Group who has been administering coronavirus tests in New Orleans. "It's sped up the testing process, and we can maintain a safe distance through the entire process."
The commodities distribution mission has yielded over 770,000 N95 masks, 3,632,890 gloves, 595 ventilators, and 104,745 Tyvek suits to only name a few items.
“Usually, we work on distributing very few commodities in very large numbers,” said Lt. Col. Ignacio Assaf, who oversees the Unified Logistics Element in Baton Rouge. “With the COVID-9 support mission, we are dealing with many different items in much larger quantities.”
To date, the LANG’s ULE and the 139th Regional Support Group have moved nearly 6.5 million commodities compared to the 2.5 million units moved through the entirety of the 2016 flood operations.
While assisting five food banks in East Baton Rouge, Central, Monroe, Terrebonne and Jefferson, Louisiana Guardsmen have packaged and distributed over 580,540 lbs. of food.
“Having always had a passion for helping people, the Louisiana Guard was a perfect fit, and to help those in need now is a blessing,” said Spc. LaDarius Daniels, a mechanic with the LANG assisting at the Baton Rouge Greater Foodbank. “To see people of all races and classes at the food distribution site really puts into perspective how many people are being affected right now.”
Guardsmen with the 62nd Civil Support Team have trained over 1,851 personnel on proper techniques of donning and doffing PPE as well as cross-contamination reduction. These personnel include military, civilian health care providers, Louisiana State Police officials, Department of Corrections workers, and support staff at many facilities such as the temporary hospital in New Orleans.
“By following the CDC recommendations for PPE, we're able to provide consistent and standardized training across the board, ensuring that all involved are equipped with the proper knowledge to keep themselves and their co-workers safe,” said Maj. Matt Digby, commander of the 62nd.
In order to assist civil authorities, the LANG is ensuring the health and safety of its Soldiers and Airmen. The LANG is actively taking steps to support health protection in order to maintain mission readiness, such as: limiting non-mission-specific travel, educating and enforcing strict CDC-recommended hygiene measures, and monitoring Guardsmen’s temperature readings and overall health daily.