Florida National Guard soldiers provide COVID-19 testing at State Veterans Nursing Home

Florida National Guard Soldiers, from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, prepare to test residents and staff for COVID-19 at a State Veterans Nursing facility. The FLNG is responding to COVID-19 by conducting on-site testing at assisted living and nursing home facilities. (US Army photo by Sgt. Leia Tascarini)
April 18, 2020

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Guard members from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) arrive at the Alexander Nininger Jr. State Veterans Nursing Home to assist with COVID-19 testing for Veterans and staff.

The 53rd IBCT’s federal mission is to mobilize, execute and deploy to theater of operations to conduct successful combat missions.  They are also 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 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 Guard formed Mobile Test Teams (MTT) to go into these communities and test the residents in their rooms. The MTTs work in teams with the majority of them going room to room while at least one 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 Cpt. 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.”

The Florida National Guard has more than 2,300 Guardsmen on duty in support of Florida’s COVID-19 response. Soldiers and Airmen are currently operating nine Community Based Testing Site locations, and have administered over 50,000 sample collections to date at those sites. In addition, the Guard is deploying Mobile Testing Teams to carry out COVID-19 testing at assisted living communities and is supporting the Florida Department of Health’s screening operations at seven Florida airports.