This article by Airman 1st Class Charissa Menken was originally published by the DoD News Service
DALLAS, Texas – The Texas Army National Guard (TARNG) are setting up Geologically Separated Units (GSUs) around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this week. One of those GSUs is the Fort Worth Army National Guard Recruiting Center, located in Southwest Fort Worth, used to pre-screen the general public who experience COVID-19 symptoms.
Sgt. Maj. Jason Broyles, 56th BRG IBCT TARNG and Texas Military Department (TMD) explains the role the Guard plays during the set-up process for these different GSUs.
“Currently, we’re setting up GSUs at different locations to facilitate all of our civilian counterparts for COVID-19 testing,” said Broyles.
“We will have our Soldiers handing out medical supplies or distributing bulk commodities needed to the general public. Today, we’re getting the testing-site facilities established so they can move forward with the actual testing processes.”
At the Texas Army Recruiting Center in Fort Worth, pre-screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms is now a quick and simple process. The check-in process takes less than five minutes, beginning with a quick swipe on the forehead for a temperature reading, then a hearty amount of dial soap to wash the patient’s hands thoroughly in the restroom. Once clean, they then fill out a quick questionnaire documenting basic information about their contact or exposure to possible COVID-19 contaminants.
The larger location, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, will host a Federal Medical Station (FMS). The FMS is managed by the Division of Strategic National Stockpile (DSNS) to take on symptomatic patients to help relieve local hospitals from the influx of COVID-19 patients. The Army National Guard, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and Spectra Venue Management Operators for the building, have had less than a week to prepare for the influx of people affected by this virus.
The combination of health care workers, contractors, and Texas Guardsmen have come together facing these operations head-on while supporting the health and safety of our local Texas communities.
Destiny Kraft, Dallas Emergency Management specialist, shares how a team mindset is valuable during this time.
“We’re preparing to support our local hospital districts for surge capacity to take the load off them so they can treat more patients with COVID-19,” said Kraft.
“I think with all of our stake-holders coming together and all having the same mission, that’s helped out a lot.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response says the FMS will provide care for 50-250 people for three days before a resupply is needed. The FMS offers health and medical surge capability for short-term inpatient persons.
This isn’t the first time the OEM has interacted with the National Guard. Adam Traylor, Dallas Emergency Management specialist, explains why everyone must work together during a pandemic.
“We have worked with the National Guard and State Guard during Hurricane Harvey and they were very helpful,” said Traylor.
“What we’ve learned from past experiences is to stay calm in these situations and try to work together while not taking on too much responsibility under one belt.”
Getting a successful plan in place as quickly as possible is paramount in saving lives, explains Rosa Flemming, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center’s Director of Convention and Event Services.
“For us, the city’s emergency management plan is set up so the convention center will always serve as a shelter,” said Flemming.
“So, as this has unfolded, we’ve opened a homeless shelter here on March 12 to try and decrease the density at the homeless shelters around the city. It’s a horrible situation but you see everyone working together and that’s the bright side of it.”
Each FMS set-up has a base treatment and pharmacy module, quickly turning a building into a temporary medical shelter. Texas Guardsmen and Paratroopers set up the FMS with 250 cots, five bariatric beds, ten exam tables, and other various medical station supplies. The large arena hosting the FMS may look bare, but supplies are still being distributed and delivered through the massive delivery dock on the northwest side of the room.
The Texas National Guard is here for Texans. These Guardsmen know the people of this great state look to them when disaster strikes and so will always, without hesitation, give all they have to rise to the challenge.
Texas Army National Guard Private 1st Class Jackson Pound, 1st Battalion (Airborne) 143rd Regiment, reflected on his call to action.
“I’ve only been with the unit a couple months now and this is the first quick reaction force they’ve called us on,” said Pound.
“I figured it would be a large group of people, for instance, calling on ten percent of the entire battalion for the people of Dallas. I knew it would be a massive help and it looks like we’re doing just that.”
The expansion process for health care facilities and testing sites outside local hospitals is a large project. However, the professional work of Texas Army National Guardsmen, pieced together by qualified and selfless volunteers, is a standard the military sets.
Texas Soldiers are committed to supporting our Texas communities throughout the response to COVID-19. Alongside our local, state and federal partners, the Texas Guard will stay on mission until the
people of Texas are safe, secure and healthy. Texas Guardsmen have, and will continue to answer the call to support their civilian counterparts and first responders in the local communities containing the coronavirus pandemic — because we are Texans serving Texas.