By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP – The Pennsylvania National Guard’s 3rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Task Force completed its hand-off of the Montgomery County, Pa., COVID-19 testing site, and returned to Fort Indiantown Gap on April 5, 2020.
“We were alerted March 19 about the mission,” said Capt. James Kane, deputy commander of the 3rd CBRN Task Force mission to Montgomery County. “In less than 24 hours: we reported, we geared up, we deployed, and then we were operational on March 20.”
The task force stood up the first Pennsylvania National Guard testing site in Pennsylvania after the request came from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The request went to the Joint Emergency Operations Center, which then tasked the mission to the Homeland Response Force for Region III; part of Pennsylvania Task Force North.
The task force is made up of Soldiers and Airmen from several PNG units, including the 28th Infantry Division, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and 193rd Special Operations Wing. It tested more than 3,700 individuals during its time manning the site time, said Kane.
Service members on this mission are being rotated to provide relief to those who have been conducting the mission for the past two weeks while also ensuring the continued availability of key assets.
After passing the mission off to 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, from Pennsylvania Task Force South, the CBRN Task Force members packed up their gear and began their journey back to Fort Indiantown Gap. As a show of appreciation from the Montgomery County community, the task force received a police escort from the testing site to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
After arriving at Fort Indiantown Gap, the Soldiers and Airmen were put through an additional screening. This secondary check follows the steps the Pennsylvania National Guard applies to its troops, even after the CBRN task force was checked early before they left Montgomery County, to make sure the individuals were being taken care of.
The forces that received them, part of Pennsylvania Task Force Fort Indiantown Gap, wore protective gear, including masks and gloves, to ensure both their safety and that of the individuals arriving back at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Staff Sgt. Tessa Whittlesey and Sgt. 1st Class Jordan Purcell, both patient administrators for PATF Fort Indiantown Gap, explained to each individual the process and procedure that they will go through.
Brig. Gen. David Wood, director of the joint staff, Pennsylvania Joint Force Headquarters, welcomed the troops back and thanked them for their hard work.
“You have helped the community, and you have set the bar,” Wood said. “You have seen first hand the symptoms of this virus, and now it is time for you take care of yourself.”