KUCOVE, Albania -- A five-member laboratory covid testing team assigned to 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Mission Support Command, administer COVID 19 testing for unit movement throughout Albania, from April 1 through June 5, 2021.
“We were the first ones to arrive and have been out here testing all of the units coming to Albania,” said Maj. Brooke Spridgen, Lab Officer, assigned to 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Mission Support Command. “We also tested a large unit, the 7th TBX (a transportation brigade out of Fort Eustis, Virginia) of approximately 600,” added Spridgen.
The five Soldier team is the only COVID-19 testing capable unit outside of Germany, during DEFENDER 21.
“We can do same day testing for those here in Albania so they can get released from ROM [restriction of movement] quicker in order to start their mission,'' explains Spridgen. “Otherwise it's collected then has to be shipped back to Germany thru DHL and go through customs and public health command.”
Once samples are tested and documented on a spreadsheet, the ISOFAC team and the unit's provider are notified. The team of five will complete about 3,000 tests during their DEFENDER 21 mission.
They work closely with the Isolation Facility Team (ISOFAC), which goes out and picks up samples for testing. The ISOFAC team also brings Soldiers food and picks them up from their respective training site.
The team deployed with a truck that is normally designed to test chemical and biological warfare. They can set up anywhere in the field and run 24-hour missions if necessary.
All of the equipment necessary for COVID testing along with a communications suite for sending out immediate test results is located inside of the truck. Live COVID samples can be opened and tested safely inside the “glove box” of the truck.
“It’s very interesting to be in the middle of it [the COVID pandemic],” concluded Capt. Shawna So, Chemical Officer, assigned to the 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Mission Support Command. “I think COVID kinda threw things sideways for everybody but to have this new mission set has been amazing.”