HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hundreds of soldiers in the National Guard tested positive after coming home from protecting Washington D.C. on and around Inauguration Day, and Connecticut was no exception.
The CT National Guard sent between 200 and 300 soldiers to the nation’s capital in January and just under 10 of them came back with COVID-19. A tough assignment to begin with without adding the pandemic on top of it.
Gov. Ned Lamont said of the troops from CT, “They went down and protected our capital over the inauguration. Not only was there some potential for violence, but there was also some COVID and infections, and these guys put themselves out for CT every day and I’m so proud of them.”
From the governor to lawmakers at the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump: “They put their lives in danger and they deserve better than this.”
There was a lot of pride for the men and women in uniform.
Pictures of the Connecticut military police unit who were sent to handle the physical threat, a medical unit also deployed to handle the COVID threat.
Cpt. Dave Pytlik of the CT National Guard said, “Our medics definitely stayed busy. They weren’t just taking care of our CT troops, but they were providing walk-in medical care for all of the guardsmen from around the nation.”
Sgt. Tamara Dabney took the photos used in this story that show the CT National Guard doing everything they can to social distance in DC, always wearing masks, and they were housed in individual hotel rooms.
But even following the guidelines, some soldiers got sick while working security checkpoints, coming in face-to-face contact with the public all day for many days.
Sgt. Dabney said, “All of our members are prepared to do the jobs that we are sent out to do, so we all mentally prepared.”
Cpt. Pytlik added, “When you sign up for the military you sign up for everything that goes along with it. We think about going to war, and the traditional hazards, this is just another one of those traditional hazards, that unfortunately, we have to deal with.”
The Connecticut National Guard says they couldn’t have done it without help from the health department. They had the labs turn around tests very quickly and those tests were critical to keeping track of the health inside the CT National Guard.
Cpt. Pytlik said, “They did all of the testing and made it possible to make sure that we had a good assessment of our people so we can take the right precautions to make sure that everybody was staying safe.”
And keep in mind, as soon as they landed here in CT from their assignment in the Capitol, they were tested and asked to self-isolate, and tested again. And with negative tests, they could return to the general population.