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    Where Are They Now? Georgia Guardsmen Deployed in 2019 Respond to COVID in 2020

    Georgia Air Guard in COVID-19 relief efforts

    Photo By Amber Williams | U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Diane Piedrahita, an Emergency Management Specialist for the...... read more read more

    MARIETTA, GA, UNITED STATES

    05.29.2020

    Story by Sgt. Jordan Trent 

    Georgia National Guard

    The Georgia National Guard deployed more than 2,600 Soldiers and Airmen in support of military operations and training missions around the world in 2019. Now in 2020, many of these service members serve a different kind of mission– to fight the COVID-19 virus. Typically in a reset state after coming home from deployment, many Georgia Guardsmen are instead working around the clock in the communities where they work and live by disinfecting long-term health facilities, increasing the state’s testing capacity, supporting public school and food bank meal distribution and assisting at hospitals.

    Georgia Army National Guard Cpl. John Rader, a Combat Engineer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 201st Regional Support Group, recently deployed to Iraq from August 2018 to April 2019. Less than a year after returning from Iraq, he mobilized in response to COVID-19.

    Rader’s team led project management for one of the most heavily constructed bases in Iraq during the 2018-2019 deployment. They built wastewater treatment plants, new houses and lined roads with protective barriers.

    In the COVID-19 response effort, Rader serves in the 201st RSG operations center at Dobbins Air Reserve Base where he tracks on-going missions across the state.

    Some of the tracking systems Rader’s team uses were previously designed during the deployment and his team tailored the methods for use during the COVID-19 response. These products improve communication and interoperability by helping key leaders maintain awareness and better assess the situation in real-time. He said the COVID response mission is new to his unit, but they are learning and adapting every day.

    “All my neighbors reach out and we get a lot of thanks,” said Rader. “I live in the area of operations that we’re cleaning nursing homes in. Our guys have already cleaned the nursing homes that my neighbor’s parent’s live in. It’s a meaningful line of work. It makes you proud to let your neighbors or your family know what you do.”

    Georgia Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Diane Piedrahita, an Emergency Management Specialist assigned to the 165th Civil Engineering Squadron, was activated to serve at the Emergency Operations Center in Savannah, Georgia in early March for the COVID-19 response.

    Piedrahita deployed to Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan with the 165th CES in July 2019 and returned in January 2020. Overseas, she served in the operations section of emergency management. She tracked weather and intelligence information, conducted training using Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear, bunker training and Emergency Operations Center training to prepare for potential missions. Now she’s applying the same lessons learned from the deployment to the COVID-19 response effort.

    “It’s a good experience because we get to work with the medical teams, which is what I’m studying,” said Piedrahita. “We usually don’t get to work with them as we respond to natural or manmade disasters, so responding to a pandemic is a new experience. This is a new one to add to the mission set and we’re getting better at the mission every day.”

    Since returning home earlier this year, Piedrahita continues serving in the 165th CES in the operations section tracking teams while they conduct missions across the state. Piedrahita is also a post-graduate student at Georgia Southern University studying for her Master’s Degree in Public Health with a focus on Epidemiology.

    The Georgia Army National Guard’s newest unit, 1st Battalion, 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia, activated Soldiers to support the COVID-19 response mission as well.

    Georgia Army National Guard Sgt. Quantez Harper, a 68W Combat Medic assigned to Company B, 1- 54th SFAB, is mobilized to fight against COVID-19 after returning at the end of 2019 from a deployment to Afghanistan.

    Harper has served in the Army National Guard for 12 years which includes three overseas deployments. In COVID-19 response effort, he applies his medical training and experience by serving in a medical support team deployed to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Georgia.

    “It’s tough,” said Harper. “Especially leaving a 10-month old and fiancé, but at the end of the day this is what we do. You learn to take the energy and use it as motivation to help others. Being here in Albany where there was such a national spotlight and knowing that we are here doing good things to help this community really drives my passion to be here. Being a part of something bigger and doing some good in the world is my motivation,” said Harper.

    The Georgia National Guard continues to support the nation’s needs abroad while also aiding their communities at home by working alongside partner agencies, building response capability and alleviating suffering until the threat of the COVID-19 virus is defeated. Georgia Guardsmen are able to respond at a moment's notice to domestic crises, as well as answer the nation's call for trained, deployable forces for missions abroad.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.29.2020
    Date Posted: 05.29.2020 09:21
    Story ID: 370936
    Location: MARIETTA, GA, US 

    Web Views: 461
    Downloads: 0

    PUBLIC DOMAIN