When COVID-19 appeared in Tennessee, Guardsmen from across the state were ready to serve their community. Thousands volunteered to help in the fight against COVID-19, which gave some Guardsmen valuable experience while protecting the state.
Airman 1st Class Marialuz Deavers, a combat medic with Nashville's 118th Medical Group, was training to become an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician at Smyrna's Motlow State Community College when the Tennessee National Guard began accepting volunteers to join the COVID-19 Task Force. Soldiers and Airmen were needed in March 2020 to help the Department of Health with testing, and later, vaccinations.
Deavers wanted to serve and knew that the medical training she already received would be valuable during the pandemic.
"When COVID-19 became more prominent, my school's classes went virtual," Deavers said. "With me training to be an Advanced EMT, the hands-on experience part of the course was impossible to simulate. When the Guard asked for volunteers to help at testing sites, I knew this would give me the chance to serve my community and get additional training. So, I volunteered for Tennessee's COVID-19 mission."
Deavers used her training at several sites during her time. She traveled throughout the state on quick response missions to administer COVID-19 tests to nursing homes, state employees, and vulnerable populations. She also supported hospitals in Memphis and worked at sites in Nashville and Chattanooga. Currently, Deavers is providing tests and vaccines at the Putnam County Fairgrounds in Cookeville.
"I have given several thousand COVID-19 tests and vaccines since I started this mission," said Deavers. "My goal is to attend nursing school once this mission is complete. The experience I have received during this operation will help me provide the best care for my future patients."
MTSU student splits time as Guardsman
When COVID-19 began spreading across Tennessee in March 2020, Sgt. Justin Chambers (above), a combat medic with Smyrna’s 208th Area Support Medical Company, was attending college at Middle Tennessee State University and working for the Rutherford County Emergency Management Service. A Spring Hill native, Chambers knew that his military training would be helpful during the pandemic.
“When Tennessee’s Adjutant General announced that the National Guard was mobilizing to fight COVID-19 last year, I knew my training would be needed,” said Chambers. “So I decided to put school and work on hold and do wherever I could to help.”
Using his skills as an Emergency Management Technician and a combat medic, Chambers joined the first group of Tennessee Guardsmen to volunteer. They started setting up testing sites throughout the state in direct support of the Department of Health and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
“After we received training on how to administer the COVID-19 tests, I was tasked to go to Putman County and help with the testing center that was being created there,” said Chambers. “We quickly stood up the drive-thru testing site and we have since tested thousands of citizens for the virus.”
Throughout the year, Chambers used his medical training to administer COVID-19 tests and assist with all of the administrative aspects of tracking those tested. Starting this past January, he began administering vaccines and monitoring for potential side effects as well as being promoted to the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Guardsmen at the site.
“Not only am I still testing, I am helping to vaccinate citizens and I’m managing my team’s work schedule,” said Chambers. “I also coordinate with the Tennessee Department of Health to provide personnel to operate various pop-up testing and vaccination sites throughout Putnam County.”
As testing and vaccinations begin to slow, Chambers is looking to the future.
“Soon this mission will be complete and I look forward to returning to MTSU and the Rutherford County EMS,” said Chambers. “I love what I’ve been doing and feel privileged to be able to help during this crisis.”