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NEWS | April 6, 2020

FLNG Soldiers on 1st state active duty at screening site

By Pfc. Cory Schreiner 107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

WEST PALM BEACH – The Citizen-Soldiers of the Florida National Guard are prepared to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice. For Pvt. Semaj Lawry, a Soldier in Alpha Company of the 53rd Brigade Support Battalion, his moment occurred only a few weeks out of advanced individual training.

At the request of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Soldiers of the 53rd BSB were called to a state active duty (SAD) role to support the drive-through COVID-19 community-based testing site in Palm Beach County. They assist with directing traffic and other labor-intensive tasks.

“The day I got my call, I was actually at work. As a lead chef, we wear headsets to convey what customers want what food,” said Lawry. “So, funny enough, in one ear I was taking orders from my head chef, and in another ear I was in a call with my sergeant telling me to leave for state active duty.”

Other junior enlisted Soldiers found themselves called to their first SAD as well. Pfc. Steve Nguyen, a full-time cosmetologist and part-time Soldier in Bravo Company of the 53rd BSB, was working when he was called for duty.

“I was [waxing] one of my client’s eyebrows when I got the text,” said Nguyen. “It kind of caught me off guard, honestly. As a Soldier, you’re always prepared to be called into action, but there’s a certain feeling that came over me that’s hard to explain.

“I got packed quickly. There’s the usual errands that you need to take care of for a big trip, but what surprised me was my mental preparedness. It wasn’t until I had arrived at my unit and we started taking everyone’s temperature that it really hit me: we’re doing this.”

Spc. Alexandra Townsend, a Soldier in Bravo Company of the 53rd BSB, is a full-time technician and electronics mechanic. After a run on her day off, Townsend got the word from her leadership.

“No one really knew what to expect,” said Townsend. “I ended up packing a tent and sleeping bag, not knowing what conditions we’d be facing. Others in my unit would talk about their experiences with hurricanes, so I kind of assumed we’d have similar living conditions. But since this is a pandemic, we have access to resources like electricity, shelter, and food.”

Soldiers of the FLNG are often called on to provide hurricane relief. Despite the pandemic of COVID-19 being these Soldiers’ first SAD, they said teamwork has been encouraging, and they’re glad to work with their unit.

“Everything is very cohesive, and we work very well together,” said Lawry. “This is my first state active duty, and I know that I’ll carry the experience I get here throughout my entire journey as a Soldier.”



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