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Massachusetts National Guard Soldiers help administer COVID-19 tests

Soldiers from the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company and the 126th Aviation Battalion get briefed before helping to administer COVID-19 tests to first responders at a drive thru testing facility, April 9, 2020, on the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The soldiers worked with other Massachusetts agencies getting individuals tested. The tested individuals should have their results digitally within 48 hours. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Sara Kolinski)

Soldiers from the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Headquarters Company, and the 126th Aviation Battalion helped administer COVID-19 tests to first responders at a drive-thru testing facility, April 9, 2020, on the Big E fairgrounds, West Springfield, Massachusetts.

The testing facility, which was organized by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Department of Fire Services, Quest Diagnostics, and other agencies tested first responders.

“It is currently only first responders because we have a limited amount of tests, and they’re on the front lines, so they’re a priority for the time being,” said Sgt. Nicholas Bearnie, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Black Hawk crew chief.

The tested individuals registered online and expect to get their results back digitally 48 hours after testing.

“It provides the first responders’ departments with confirmation if they have tested negative for COVID-19,” said Spc. Colin Fitzgerald, 26th MEB HHC air defense battle management systems operator. “Therefore their resources and their manpower can be restored fully to deal with their municipalities.”

Many agencies from across Massachusetts came together to make the testing go smoothly.

“It promotes interoperability which is crucial, and it helps so that when we get relieved other agencies can stand alone, and we can pass on this knowledge so that the flow remains smooth,” said Fitzgerald.

The Soldiers said they felt honored to give back to their communities and be a part of such a valuable mission.

“I grew up in Worcester, and I’ve known people from all over the state. Traveling all over the state and helping out different communities in towns that I’m familiar with and even towns I’ve never heard of before, it’s a good feeling,” said Fitzgerald.