TOPEKA, Kan. –In a mission that began in March, Kansas National Guard teams have driven approximately 50,000 miles transporting COVID-19 samples from counties across the state to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Lab located on Forbes Field in Topeka. Each team is assigned a specific region of the state from which they provide transportation for the test kits.The test samples are collected and then boxed by medical facilities and then handed off to the Kansas Guardsmen for transport.“This mission is primarily a logistics task and consists of transporting the tests from the requested county health departments and test sites,” Maj. Kade Garst, Kansas Army National Guardsmen sample transport mission officer in charge, 997th Brigade Support Battalion, said. “Staging areas include as far west as Colby and as far south as Garden City.”“The teams are notified by 2 p.m. if they will have a mission that day and head to the locations for pick up,” Garst said.The transportation efforts move the test samples for the communities that may not have the logistics available to run daily transports of the test samples to the facilities that perform the testing. Ensuring the pickups are available also increase the amount of days that the facilities are able to conduct testing.“The Guard’s effort in transporting the test samples helps,” Staff Sgt. Raymond Owes, Kansas Army National Guardsmen signal support systems specialist, 997th Brigade Support Battalion, said. “In Kansas we have a lot of small communities that need the assistance. We help to bridge that gap in services for those communities.”Local pick up routes to the Topeka area include Troy and Lawrence with five to seven missions a week to pick up and then drop off at the KDHE lab in Topeka.Sites such as the Doniphan County Health Department and Home Health located in Troy, Kansas, have expanded COVID-19 testing from two to five days with an appointment. The increase in testing has meant an increased need in transporting the samples to the state. The facility administrator was very appreciative for the state's assistance.“The Guard’s assistance with transporting the tests has had a big impact on the amount of tests we are able to send to the labs,” Sheryl Pierce, Doniphan County Health Department and Home Health administrator, said. “It’s been a huge help.”With Soldiers driving in close proximity to one another, and traveling through different counties, drivers take great care to keep themselves and those they interact with safe. All drivers wear masks when in close quarters with one another and when they are in the public. When vehicles return from transporting, they are sanitized daily.For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDC