WESTMINSTER, Md. – About 10 Soldiers from the Maryland Army National Guard’s 115th Military Police Battalion began supporting the first state-sponsored, community-based COVID-19 testing site May 14 at the Carroll County Agriculture Center.
Under normal circumstances, this Westminster center would be gearing up for spring and summer community events such as farmer’s markets, tractor pulls, and fairs. This year, however, the Carroll County Agriculture Center will be supporting the community with a different type of service – COVID-19 testing.
As the day came to open the large bay doors to community members in need of COVID-19 testing, a group of medical providers, health planners, and volunteers gathered to get operations underway. Citizen-Soldiers from the Maryland National Guard assisted with traffic control, a mission well-known to this particular unit.
In mid-March, when the MDNG was first activated, the 115th Military Police Battalion began supporting the state’s first testing site at FedEx Field in Landover and other subsequent sites. More than 300 Soldiers, eager to help their fellow Marylanders, supported these missions.
“We’ve supported the majority of screening and testing sites throughout the state, which in many ways is the main effort at this stage in the fight [against COVID-19],” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rob Wille, 115th MP Battalion commander.
Wille says the lessons learned from FedEx Field allowed for more effective and efficient testing throughout the rest of the state, like in Carroll County. Many of the tasks these Soldiers perform at the testing sites are inherent to their military police functions.
“The National Guard is often seen as a reassuring presence because we’re called on in times of real need or crisis,” Wille said. “In most cases, our Soldiers are of the local communities in which they serve; they know the people and the areas.”
In Westminster, the Carroll County Health Department and Board of Commissioners recognized the need to bring these resources to the local community. Still, it took additional partnerships to make it happen. Within the local health department are volunteers from Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps, a community-based civilian volunteer program; the county Department of Public Safety; Emergency Management; Public Works; and the Sheriff’s Office.
“Our partners appreciate us safely managing the vehicle and pedestrian flow in and out of the sites,” said Wille. “The MDNG providing this support allows local resources to focus on all other routine operations. This all helps increase public safety.”
“Having the MDNG on board is a tremendous help with the operation of this new community testing site,” said Stephen Wantz, County Commissioner board president. “They are providing an invaluable service to our residents and the region.”
Wantz and Ed Singer, the Carroll County health officer, visited the site on the first day.
Singer said the support from the MDNG was extremely helpful because the Health Department staff was stretched so thin with COVID-19 response efforts.
Singer served in the MDNG for 15 years until 2002 and reflected on working alongside some family members of the Soldiers at the testing site and others in the MDNG still at the forefront of the crisis.
“The National Guard sure is a small world,” said Singer.
For more National Guard news: http://www.nationalguard.mil/
National Guard Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheNationalGuard/
National Guard Twitter: https://twitter.com/usnationalguard
How the National Guard is helping: https://www.nationalguard.mil/coronavirus/
Photos of the National Guard response: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalguard/albums/72157713483827538
Latest from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/
U.S. response: https://www.coronavirus.gov/
White House-CDC response: https://www.coronavirus.gov/