Nebraska Air, Army National Guard test for COVID-19 across state

Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 7:16 PM CDT
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It’s a call to serve like they’ve never seen before.

A select group of Nebraska Air and Army National Guard members putting their lives at risk to help get critical coronavirus testing done.

The National Guard really has this assistance mission down. It didn’t take them more than 25 minutes to get unpacked, set up, get all their protective equipment on and start testing.”

Every move in this process matters.

Nebraska National Guard Lt. Col. Jennifer Hasslen said, “Protection is key, we help each other no matter what, with taping, with getting the suits on.”

All in preparation to test about 100 people in two days.

From healthcare workers to law enforcement.

“We are coming in contact with people that are very, very high chance of being positive tests,” Hasslen said.

And when the stakes are that high -- it’s all hands on deck.

“Doesn’t matter rank or however long you’ve been in or whatever we’re just all helping each other so we remain protected,” Hasslen said.

And they’re just as concerned with protecting the public.

“We still have to go to the grocery store to get our food. We still have to go get takeout food, so we’ve made a rule now that you have to wear your mask if you’ve basically left your hotel room,” Hasslen said.

Notice they’re in hotel rooms and not at home.

Making the choice to leave their families for this high-risk work.

Nebraska National Guard 2nd Lt. Natasha Hilsgen said, “So this taskforce is all volunteers coming out. Being put on state active duty orders to really help with this testing and being a good representation of how the guard assists in time of need.”

A time of need like they’ve never seen before.

Reporter: “Did you ever think in your time with the national guard you’d be doing something like this?”

Hasslen: “No, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen this at all. Nobody thought this was going to happen.”

As for where this team may be deployed next, that’s up to the state to determine where the hotspots may be, and where the national guard may be of best service.

6 News has learned the team featured in this story has been called by the state to test in Bloomfield and O'Neill tomorrow.

They will also have teams testing people in Lexington and Grand island tomorrow.

As of yesterday the Nebraska Air and Army National Guard have tested nearly 1,500 people for COVID-19.