Heroes Among Us: National Guard

Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 11:22 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Each month, WALB and Montlick and Associates recognize the "Heroes Among Us."

We spotlight an active duty man or woman, a veteran or a fallen hero.

Over the past two months, we've seen all kinds of heroes on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in South Georgia.

One group is the Georgia National Guard.

More than 3,000 members have been deployed across the state, leaving their loved ones behind to help save strangers' lives.

"The Georgia National Guard has worked tirelessly to assist emergency response efforts across our state," said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp during a press conference Monday.

Some 3,145 soldiers, airmen and state defense force personnel are split up into infection control teams, medical support teams and others.

Many of them have come to Southwest Georgia.

"We're just here to help," said Capt. Jordan Clower, who was in Albany to assist at a new COVID-19 testing site. "We're just here to assist. I know Albany was a heavily hit area with COVID-19, so we wanna do our part in helping get people tested."

That testing site is free and is one of several across the state being put on in conjunction with Augusta University, including another site in Moultrie.

Perhaps one of the Guard's biggest missions is in Georgia's long-term care facilities.

“We can’t see what we are fighting, but what we have learned about this virus is it’s somewhat of a bully,” said Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, the adjutant general of Georgia’s Department of Defense. “The virus finds it’s way to the elderly and the infirmed.”

Carden said the 69 National Guard teams going into places like nursing homes and personal care homes, along with all other guardsmen in Georgia, are “at war” with COVID-19.

“We are out there with our infection control teams working in nursing homes across the state, to bend the odds in their favor of surviving from COVID-19 in the nursing homes,” he said.

Almost 1,000 National Guard members are on those teams, decontaminating Georgia's 790 long-term care facilities.

“These dedicated teams have provided critical support – by sanitizing the facility and training staff on enhanced infection control protocols,” Kemp said.

As of Monday, the state said the infection control teams had been into 710 of the facilities, with some getting multiple visits.

"Given the heightened risk of adverse consequences for the medically fragile and elderly, this work by the Guard is truly lifesaving," said the governor.

The guard also sent 206 personnel to 20 hospitals in Georgia to provide medical care to patients and a helping hand to healthcare workers.

That includes at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.

Some 190 personnel have worked on entry support teams to do patient arrival screening at healthcare facilities.

And 170 have supported food banks across the state.

“We’ve adapted to this fight and we are going to continue to adapt to it,” said Carden. “I think we are going to change when the enemy changes and we are going to take the fight to the enemy.”

Kemp said the national recognition the Georgia Guard has gotten speaks to its members’ dedication to the people in the Peach State.

“I applaud the brave men and women who have answered the call to service and who are fighting the virus with every fiber of their being,” the governor said.

If you know a special military hero you want to nominate, click here.

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