PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – 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.
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.
"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.
"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 Guard members 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.
The Florida Guard is also deploying teams to carry out COVID-19 testing at assisted living communities and is supporting Florida Department of Health screening operations at seven Florida airports.