Right now, members of the Army National Guard are serving Georgians in ways they never have before.
You have probably seen the images of National Guardsmen at long-term care homes, not in their typical uniforms, but in hazmat suits. Soldiers are disinfecting places like nursing homes even if there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in that specific home.
“What we’re trying to do is bend the odds in favor of survival,” says Major General Thomas Carden.
Maj. Gen. Carden says the assignments his troops are currently fulfilling are unlike anything they are used to doing.
“From medical support teams, to infection control teams, to mobile strike teams for testing, none of these capabilities will be found on my manning documents,” Maj. Gen. Carden says.
Maj. Gen Carden created the responsibilities to fight what he calls an “invisible enemy.” He has gotten calls from National Guard leaders in other states who want to know how they can do the same.
“We linked up their planners with our subject matter experts and we were more than willing to share the tactics, techniques and procedures that we’re employing,” Maj. Gen. Carden says.
Sergeant Romaine Minott’s brigade is stationed at Augusta University to help people get tested for coronavirus.
“Anything to help the country,” Sgt. Minott says. “We’re a call away, ready to serve.”
Before they reported to an AU classroom where they are answering calls and helping people through the COVID-19 testing process, they were on deployment in Afghanistan.
“Definitely not done anything like this before. We’re about 6-7 months removed from deployment so this is a whole new beast within itself,” Sgt. Minott points out.
Sergeant First Class Adam Pyper has served in the Army Nation Guard band for roughly 19 years.
“Aside from the civilian work I do from day to day, when I get together with the Army, we rehearse, we do parades, we do ceremonies. We put on concerts for the public,” says SFC Pyper.
SFC Pyper never been called to an active duty assignment, until now.
“Getting called to active duty orders for something like this is pretty rare for people like me,” says SFC Pyper. “We’re warned about the possibility of being called up, but have I actually been activated for something like this? I have not.”
These soldiers are constantly serving people, but rarely are they able to interact with them in the ways they are now.
“It’s not every day that we get to take such an active role in protecting,” says SFC Pyper. “We actually get to help them with what they’re dealing with and to get through it…What a great opportunity and a privilege it is to be able to serve our Georgia citizenry in this regard.”
Photojournalist Gary Hipps