DRAWSKO POMORSKIE, Poland – Even during a pandemic, Soldiers remain focused on the Army’s readiness mission. So, when troops recently arrived for training in Poland, they had an extra task – to be swabbed for the Novel Coronavirus through a quick, cutting-edge diagnostic test spearheaded by U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers.
This four-person team from the 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Mission Support Command, deployed with a specialized truck from Kaiserslautern, Germany, to Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, April 13 to test incoming 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers.
The CST Soldiers arrived with an Analytical Laboratory System housed in a truck normally employed to detect chemical and nuclear threats.
The 773rd CST is the sole CST in both Europe and the U.S. Army Reserve. Civil support teams, staffed with highly skilled people, are technologically advanced units designed to detect, decontaminate and eliminate chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats.
“Interests were shown that we could use our system in a field environment in areas that lack the capability to test Soldiers for COVID,” said 1st Sgt. Domenic Barbeiro, 773rd CST first sergeant. “The plan is to test U.S. forces coming from the United States before they start operating in this environment. We ensure they are not introducing COVID to an area that is relatively COVID-free.”
Additionally, Barbeiro said the test has a three-hour or less turn-around time, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars.
“We train with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and within the unit,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Branning, 773rd CST survey section team chief. “That helps us get in a groove to do sampling, and some of that bleeds into missions like what we are doing right now.”
The unit worked in partnership with the 30th Medical Brigade, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Regional Health Command Europe to train, certify and prepare for the assignment.
“Everyone plays their own role in support of the successful mission,” said Maj. Dmitry Pervitsky, 773rd CST biochemist, speaking of the preparation involved to retrofit the mobile lab and create a team to deploy in short notice.
The mission’s first three days consisted of travel, logistical planning and training. Spartan Brigade Soldiers arrived to a remote site in Poland April 16 where they quarantined for 14 days. Combat medics with the brigade received samples, by way of nasal swab, then walked the samples a mere 50 feet to the mobile lab.
“We tested the first round of 28 Soldiers and plan to test approximately 250 more Soldiers,” said Branning. “Then we will follow-on to another location to conduct more tests.”
Barbeiro concluded that safeguarding Americans was why they deployed.
“Healthy Soldiers and readiness are our top priorities, and the CTS’s capabilities are the cornerstone of troop readiness during these times,” he said.