ALEXANDRIA, La. – The Louisiana National Guard, as directed by Governor John Bel Edwards, has activated over 660 Soldiers and Airmen so far, not to include full-time Guardsmen, to assist with the COVID-19 response, March 26. The number of Guardsmen activated and equipment utilized is anticipated to increase until the situation is stabilized. “
“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. Ben 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 has mobilized Guardsmen throughout the state to support current operations, including medical support, engineering assessment support, shelter security, traffic control point and drive-through testing site support, assistance at food banks, and to provide 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 healthcare 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, is screening patients at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles. He said that he feels proud to be one of the few people who can help during an event that shut the entire state down.
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 in Lafayette. 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.”
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 on a daily basis.