The Louisiana National Guard, as directed by Governor John Bel Edwards, activated over 238 soldiers and airmen Thursday, not to include full-time Guardsmen, to assist with the COVID-19 response. The number of Guardsmen activated and equipment utilized is anticipated to increase until the situation is stabilized.
More than 100 soldiers and airmen are stationed at three sites in Jefferson Parish and New Orleans to assist local agencies with COVID-19 testing. The drive-up testing stations have begun to take delivery of the necessary testing kits and protective equipment and are scheduled to become operational within the next few days.
“It’s invaluable,” said New Orleans Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Collin Arnold. “When these soldiers come here, they’re mission oriented. Sometimes it’s a little difficult, even within your own city government, to understand that when we get into these situations, you just have to roll and keep going until it’s over. That’s what they do. When you give them a mission, like we’ve given them a mission to assist us at these pods, they get it done.”
The 225th Engineer Brigade has Guardsmen around the state assisting Louisiana Fire Marshalls and the Louisiana Department of Health in assessing facilities for use as hospital overflow in case that is needed.
The LANG has mobilized Guardsmen to support current operations, including medical support, engineering assessment support, shelter security, traffic control point and drive-through testing site support and to provide liaison officer teams to Parish Emergency Operations Centers.
“Aside from our Guardsmen already responding, we are continuing to lean forward and plan for possible follow-on missions that we may be called upon to perform,” said Brig. Gen. D. Keith Waddell, adjutant general of the LANG. “As our missions develop and increase, today’s preparations will lead to tomorrow’s success.”
In order to assist civil authorities, the LANG is ensuring the health and safety of its soldiers and airmen — including 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.