By Sgt. Jaccob Hearn
131st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
An Alabama National Guard Soldier with a Task Force 31 disinfection team hangs up his personal protective suit to dry in a Fort Whiting hangar in Mobile, Alabama, May 15, 2020.
MOBILE, Ala. – Task Force 31, a joint effort between the Alabama Air and Army National Guard, has been fighting COVID-19 in the state since April.
With numbers continuing to rise in the city, the Mobile natives who have been called to active duty are taking the fight personally.
“I joined [the National Guard] specifically to help my community,” said Mobile native Spc. Phillip Melancon, a chemical biological radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialist with the 690th CBRN Company.
Melancon now works with Task Force 31 on a disinfection team. “It’s been very bad in some of the facilities we’ve been to, but we’ve seen so much support – not just in Mobile but every community. You can tell everyone is working together to fight this thing.”
Task Force 31 teams four, five and six are stationed at Fort Whiting in Mobile, and a large portion of them are Mobilians. They are responsible for the southern area of Alabama. The team disinfects long-term care facilities, educates people about safety protocols, and does whatever is required to help mitigate the threat of COVID-19.
Although Mobile is not their sole focus, they have worked with three facilities in the city, with more scheduled.
Lana Davis, the administrator for Springhill Rehabilitation & Senior Residence, said it was comforting knowing that there were Mobilians on the team that disinfected her facility.
“They were so humble to be here,” said Davis. “They were here to protect us, and you can tell they wanted to be here.”
Care facilities coordinate through the Alabama Nursing Home Association to request Task Force 31’s aid. Just because a facility receives aid does not mean there are COVID-19 cases there.
Another Mobile native, Spc. Godfrey Gildersleeve, a CBRN specialist with the 690th CBRN Company, is working with Task Force 31 on a disinfection team.
“My late grandparents used to stay in one of the facilities we went to,” said Gilderesleeve. “When I was there, I knew that my training really had a purpose.”
“This is what they do, their specialty. We are so grateful to have them here,” said Frances Coleman, a spokeswoman for Crowne Health Care of Mobile.
Throughout the United States, nearly 46,000 Air and Army National Guard professionals are supporting COVID-19 response at the direction of their governors.
“The National Guard is the nation’s first military response force in times of domestic crisis,” said Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Whether it’s helping people do testing or helping people with awareness ... the National Guard can help the nation deal with this crisis.”
As Alabama begins to reopen, the Alabama National Guard will continue to focus on COVID-19 relief efforts.
“I hope people continue to do their best to social distance and do the right thing,” said Melancon, “It’s stringent and monotonous, but we need to do it for the people who can’t do it. Things are tough, but one day they will get better.”