Missouri National Guard family protects the community together

By Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier | Missouri National Guard Public Affairs | June 19, 2020

HILLSBORO, Mo. – Service in the National Guard is often a family affair with brothers sisters, sons and daughters following in each other’s’ footsteps, joining the same units and serving together. One Missouri family now is taking their family service a step further, on duty together in the fight against COVID-19.

Pfc. Kristen Arroyo, a combat medic with the Missouri National Guard’s 205th Medical Company Ground Ambulance, and her father, Col. Dennis Arroyo, the medical provider for the MONG Homeland Response Force, are both activated to fulfill the Guard’s mission of increasing the availability of coronavirus testing across the state as part of Governor Mike Parson’s Show-Me Strong Recovery Plan.

For his part, Dennis was tasked with ensuring Guard medics were trained and prepared to conduct nasopharyngeal swab tests for COVID-19. To do that, he put on a mask and gloves with his soldiers and worked alongside them, showing and teaching them how to do the job.

“A lot of my peers were impressed that he was out with us in protective gear swabbing patients and doing tests,” said Kristen. “That’s not what colonels usually do. But he trained us to do the tests and now we’re out here doing the mission.”

The test performed by these medics is a nasopharyngeal swab test, which involves sticking a long swab on a flexible plastic shaft into the nostril, all the way back to the part of the nose that joins the throat. It looks more uncomfortable than it feels, and the procedure only takes a few seconds to complete.

Kristen uses humor to help patients relax. “Some people are nervous about the size of the swab, so I tell them ‘I’m just going to tickle your brain a little,’” she said. “I’ve made some people cry with the test, but it comes with the job. Most people take it like a champ, and they really appreciate us being out here for the testing.”

The Guard has two task forces providing free testing in communities around the state in an effort to help the Department of Health and Senior Services meet the governor’s goal of providing 7,500 tests per day for Missourians. The task forces, which include the 205th, have provided testing in counties across the state with a goal of around 500 tests per day."

 “Some days are busier than others,” Kristen said. “I’ve probably tested about 500 or 600 people myself so far. It’s an unfortunate situation that we’re needed out here, but this is what we’re here for – it’s what we signed up to do.”

Not every parent gets to see their child follow so closely in his or her footsteps, but Dennis says he feels the same pride for other soldiers he trained for this mission as he feels for his own daughter.

“It’s fantastic these medics are able to be out in the community doing what they do,” he said. “The mission is definitely needed across the state. These soldiers get to interact with the public, feel that appreciation from the people and take pride in the mission they’re doing.”