Head shot of Staff Sgt. Luis Morales in full protective medical gear outside drive up testing spot.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Mullen, 178th Wing

Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a dental technician assigned to the 178th Medical Group, poses for a photo June 17, 2020 at Community Building Institute in Middletown, Ohio. Airmen from the 178th Wing and Soldiers assigned to the Ohio National Guard augmented staff members of Centerpoint Health to help with drive-thru Coronavirus testing of local community members.

Guard medics provide COVID-19 testing to local community members

Story by Staff Sgt. Amber Mullen, 178th Wing Public Affairs

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (06/17/20)

Ohio National Guard medical personnel recently augmented staff members of Centerpoint Health to help with drive-thru COVID-19 testing of local community members at the Community Building Institute Middletown, Inc.

Senior Master Sgt. Sarah Berzes-Vaughn, superintendent of dental services for the Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Medical Group in Springfield, Ohio, served as the testing team lead in charge of the Guard personnel onsite as well as helped facilitate the community testing.

“The community members check in with Centerpoint Health and they are given a bag and lab requisition form,” Berzes-Vaughn said. “Once they get to the testing pod, they’ll be swabbed in each nostril (by Ohio National Guard medical personnel) and then the swab goes into the reagent. Then we’ll make sure the patient identifiers are on the sample and properly stored until they are ready to be sent to the lab.”

On June 11, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that all Ohioans were entitled to be tested for COVID-19, even if they were in a low-risk group or asymptomatic. With the increased demand by individuals seeking a COVID-19 test since then, the Ohio National Guard has been able to help provide support to their fellow Ohioans with pop-up testing sites throughout the state.

“(The testing) is going to be able to save lives by being able to do contact tracing,” Berzes-Vaughn said. “It’s really important for us to be able to help out our community.”

The 178th Wing members worked alongside Ohio Army National Guard medics from the 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and the 285th Medical Company, both based in Columbus, Ohio. The Airmen and Soldiers teamed up in groups of two and were in charge of verifying patient information, performing nasal swab COVID-19 testing, and properly packaging and storing the testing specimens. The Centerpoint Health volunteers were in charge of facilitating the drive-thru testing and getting patients checked in.

“It’s been a great opportunity to be out in the community and talking to patients that come through the drive-thru for testing,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a dental technician with the 178th Medical Group. “I think it’s important for us to come out here and help out the community in a time of need.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Ohio National Guard members remain ready to assist their state when called upon. Being able to serve their community in times of need is a reason why many Airmen and Soldiers chose to join the Guard.

“I think it’s important for the National Guard to be out in the community because a lot of people don't know what we do or who we are,” said Staff Sgt. Christina Pumphrey, a medical technician with the 178th Medical Group. “Coming out here and helping out lets them know that we are here to help our state and our country in times of need. Being able to give back is the reason why I joined the Guard. I am thankful for this opportunity to help out in any way that I can.”

Ohio National Guard medical personnel continue to support pop-up sites across the state by providing free swab collections. The current pop-up site testing location schedule can be found on the Ohio Department of Health’s coronavirus/COVID-19 web page.