Protecting the Force

By Spc. Bryton Bluth | 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | June 9, 2020


The Utah National Guard’s Mobile Testing Team administered nasopharyngeal swabs, testing Soldiers and Airmen for COVID-19 who had responded to civil unrest in Salt Lake City, June 7, 2020. The testing took place at the North Salt Lake National Guard Armory where more than 700 Army and Air National Guardsmen were tested after returning from the state capitol.

Soldiers were activated to Salt Lake City to support civil authorities in protecting life, preserving property and restoring peace. Due to the ongoing pandemic, and the nature of the protests, Soldiers were tested for COVID-19 due to increased exposure to residents and citizens of Salt Lake County. Increased exposure to troops did not alter the mission of the MTT, rather it sharpened the focus of the team.

 “It (the mission) hasn't changed,”  said Tech. Sgt. Erik Bornemier, a member of the 151st Medical Group, Utah Air National Guard, who serves as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the MTT.

“With the protests, it brings a lot of people that might be exposed all together in one footprint. What it does, is it potentially exposes our troops.”

The MTT is a team composed of healthcare professionals and Utah National Guard volunteers. They arrived from the North Salt Lake Armory to collect nasopharyngeal samples from all of the Soldiers by using a flocked swab. The flocked swab is a three-inch-long cotton swab which is  sent through the nasal cavity until it reaches the nasopharynx between the nose and throat. It is then held in place for 20 seconds, twisted and then removed to provide a sample for testing. 

“Our goal here is to test our troops and to make sure they are kept safe and healthy,” said Bornemier.

 “If we do have people who test positive for COVID-19, it gives us knowledge and ability to take action and make sure they’re protected and their family is protected.”

“After conducting more than 15,000 tests [in Utah], we haven’t had one tester test positive for COVID-19, which is very significant,” Bornemeier continued.

As Utah progresses through this pandemic, the partnership between organizations is vital if the state is to eventually move into a new normal and begin to manage this disease like other illnesses such as influenza.

“It’s not going to go away,” said Kelly Carnahan, Emergency Manager with the Public Health Laboratory and lead for the MTT. “COVID-19 is going to exist at least through this fall when we have another flu season.”

Having these lessons learned, putting together teams and coming up with a real-world plan of action that can be used in the future will help Utah, especially because the Department of Health doesn't have a lot of field operations, according to Carnahan.

“Joining forces with the Utah Department of Health and Utah National Guard expanded the reach and ability to test across the entire state,” Carnahan said.

“It’s actually heartwarming to me to see that we can do this and actually help people, and figure out what we can do to mitigate the problems, and save lives,” she continued.

As the fight with COVID-19 continues, the MTT will take strides in prevention and testing with the help of the Utah National Guard and other state partners, working alongside each other and finding their footing, according to Bornemier.

“We are learning alongside each other,” he said.

“We are able to be more offensive, we are able to act, as opposed to reacting and being acted upon. Because of the MTT’s efforts, the Soldiers who were on the frontlines can not only help protect themselves and their families, but also help provide safety for demonstrators should they meet again.”



More photos available to download on Flickr In general, all media on the site is produced by U.S. DoD or Federal Agencies, and is in the public domain, i.e., not protected by U.S. copyright; however, other restrictions might apply, such as, but not limited to, the right to enforce trademarks, and the right of privacy/right of publicity, any of which might restrict use of some of the media. Media may not be used to imply endorsement of any product or service by the DoD. Proper credit of the producing journalist(s) is requested.




Approximately 200 Utah National Guard Soldiers returned to Salt Lake City, Sunday, June 7, 2020 following an activation at the request of the Secretary of Defense to augment civil authorities in Washington, D.C. amid civil unrest. Soldiers from Group Support Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) spent five days in D.C. providing security at national monuments and assisting in cleanup efforts.
Utah Army National Guard’s “Monuments Men” return to Salt Lake City following D.C. civil unrest
By 1st Lt. MARK SAGVOLD | June 15, 2020
Approximately 200 Utah Army National Guard Soldiers returned home to Salt Lake City, Utah, June 7,

Airman of the 151st Security Forces Squadron answer the call of Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, to provide an extra layer of safety and security in response to demonstrations and rioting at the Utah State Capitol, as well as, the Salt Lake City and County Building.  (US Air National Guard  photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe A. Davis)
Utah Guard Activated by Order of the Governor
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free, 801-716-9162 | May 31, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Approximately 200 members of the Utah National Guard were activated by order

Members of Utah's 85th Weapons of Mass Destruction, Civil Support Team (CST), Hawaii's 93rd CST, Guam's 94th CST and Alaska's 103rd CST train for disaster support on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
85th Civil Support Team responds in times of need
By Tech Sgt. John Winn | May 20, 2020
Members of the Utah National Guard's 85th Civil Support team respond to a myriad of situations including chemical spills, drug epidemics, nuclear detection and more, the mission of the CST is broad, but indispensable.

U.S. Army National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, assigned to the Utah National Guard, participate in medical training as a response force to Covid-19 in Sandy, Utah, May 12, 2020. Soldiers and Airmen with Utah National Guard will be assisting medical professionals in mobile Corona Virus test sites around the state as a service to Utah Residents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Jacob Jesperson)
Utah National Guard Supports Utah Department of Health with COVID-19 Response
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | May 19, 2020
More than 100 soldiers and airmen from the Utah National Guard arrived at the Mountain America Expo

As of May 14, 2020, the Utah National Guard has packaged 487,419 items of PPE, and delivered 45,066 packages to 3,601 businesses across Utah, from an improvised warehouse at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The Utah National Guard will continue to receive, stage and ship items of PPE to businesses across the state.
The Utah National Guard Helps Reopen Local Economy
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | May 19, 2020
In a warehouse-sized dock at the back of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah

A Black Hawk helicopter crew from 2nd General Aviation Support Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, Utah National Guard drops water on the Saddle Fire in Midway, Utah, May 14, 2020. Two UH-60 Black Hawks were in the air above Midway by 9 a.m. and dropped 85 to 90 bucket loads of water on the fire.
Utah Guard Aviation Fights Saddle Fire
By Ileen Kennedy | May 19, 2020
Black Hawk helicopter aircrews from 2nd General Aviation Support Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment,

Soldiers assigned to the Utah National Guard's 1st Battalion, 211th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Aviation Regiment, depart the Army Aviation Support Facility, West Jordan, Utah, May 7, 2020. The battalion, comprised of three companies of AH-64 Apache helicopters and more than 300 soldiers, will provide combat air support to ground forces during the year-long deployment. (Utah National Guard photo by Ileen.Kennedy)
Utah Guard's Aviation Battalion Deploys During Pandemic 
By Ileen Kennedy | May 13, 2020
In this time of crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 300 Utah National Guard Soldiers

On April 16, 2020, Pvt. 1st Class Hope Torok took the final step to join the Utah National Guard, during one of the worst weeks of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S.
“I’ve worked in retail pretty much all of my working years,” Torok explained. “During Covid-19 in March, I was furloughed from my work since it is considered a non-essential job.”
As a furloughed, non-essential worker, Torok said she had more time to think about what she wanted in life. She decided to sit down with a recruiter.
A message of hope: Utahns volunteer for military service during pandemic
By Spc. Felicia Olmos and Sgt. Nathaniel Free | April 30, 2020
Utahns continue to volunteer for military service despite increased restrictions on recruiting and

Spc. Kalani Bedell, a parachute rigger from the 19th Special Forces Group sews together two layers of fabric in this stage of mask production to protect Utah National Guard Soldiers during the Covid-19 Pandemic April 15, 2020 on Camp Williams. Masks are based on instructions from University of Florida Health, two layers of tightly woven cotton fabric. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon
Parachute Riggers Make Face Masks to Protect the Utah National Guard
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | April 21, 2020
To slow the spread of COVID-19 among Soldiers and Airmen in the Utah National Guard, parachute

Service members assigned to the 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Utah Army National Guard, conduct a meeting via video teleconference April 19, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 204th MEB is among the first National Guard units in the nation to conduct a teleworking drill or
How “Teledrill” Keeps Utah Service Members Safe and Ready
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | April 19, 2020
Service members assigned to the 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Utah Army National Guard, were