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‘Whatever mission the state needs:’ Florida National Guard team running coronavirus testing at CenturyLink Sports Complex

This isn’t your typical assignment for the Florida National Guard. They’re running the coronavirus testing at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Lee County.

As car after car lined up with drivers wanting to know if they have the coronavirus, WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko got an exclusive look behind the scenes of this critical mission.

An infantry officer runs the Mobile Testing Team (MTT).

Captain Jose Martinez, 1st Battalion 124th Infantry, Florida Army National Guard. (WINK News)

“The COVID response has been something we’ve never dealt with before,” said Captain Jose Martinez, 1st Battalion 124th Infantry, Florida Army National Guard.

But these soldiers know how to attack any problem.

“Any operation we do, we normally follow our traditional battle rhythm. We have a CP where we do our tracking, normally called battle tracking,” Martinez said.

That CP or “Command Post” is where Martinez counts cars and tests as he leads his soldiers in this testing mission. His team has cooks, medics and satellite technicians in addition to infantry soldiers.

Martinez, who has had about a dozen hurricane response assignments in his past, sees a lot of similarities.

“It seems like we have a hurricane sometimes, multiple of the same year, so pretty much standard operating procedure for us. We’re prepared to execute this operation at a moment’s notice,” he said.

As hundreds of cars move through with drivers getting tested, Martinez and his team stand ready.

“This is pretty much a straightforward operation, just managing the security inside the perimeter and then make sure we can facilitate the testing and assisting our civilian counterparts,” he said.

He’s got his troops trained up and in place, but for how long?

“We’re going to be here as long as we need to be here,” Martinez said.

The work is non-stop and potentially dangerous, but the dedication of the soldiers is unmatched.

“So whether it’s Iraq, a local testing center, it doesn’t matter. We’re ready to execute whatever mission the state needs,” he said.

The test is quick, but the wait can be long. Once you enter the CenturyLink Sports Complex, the wait is about two to two and a half hours.

The goal for getting results is two to four days and the National Guard will be there to continue testing for the foreseeable future.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Briana Harvath
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