As the first regional COVID-19 testing site in Florida, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) continues to demonstrate its commitment to the community. With more than 12,790* tests collected at the test site to date, the OCCC’s remote parking lot remains a vital part of Florida’s plan in fighting the pandemic and securing the safety of the region.
The site’s success in supporting the community is largely attributed to the Florida National Guard, who have operationally supported the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health at the OCCC testing site by providing trained individuals to conduct COVID-19 test collections, and complete packaging to be sent to state medical labs for testing.
“We salute these men and women and appreciate their service to our community,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “Rain or shine and in the Florida weather, these deployed guards and the nurses have assisted in facilitating thousands of tests for Central Floridians. They are truly the unsung heroes of this operation.”
With more than 400 Soldiers and Airmen deployed since March 17, the OCCC would like to acknowledge some of the “Faces of the Fight,” in recognition of their selfless sacrifice and dedication to the Orange County and Central Florida community.
Captain John Constantine
Capt. John Constantine, an Officer in Charge of the medics at the OCCC Community-Based Testing Site, is currently activated with the 125th Air Expeditionary Squadron for COVID-19. He is also a local dentist with his own local practice in Winter Park, Fla. He is excited to be able to help his community in this time of need through the medical skill set he has gained from both his civilian and his military life.
"Helping my community is the whole reason I joined. That's the reason I wanted to get this skill set so I could help out with situations like this."
Capt. John Constantine at the OCCC COVID-19 testing site
Sergeant Spencer Rhodes
Sgt. Spencer Rhodes, a public affairs specialist for the 107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, is currently activated for COVID-19 at the OCCC Community-Based Testing Site. He has been a part of the public affairs mission to tell the Florida National Guard’s story for nearly a decade. This is currently his fourth state active duty mission and he attributes the success of his mission to the team he has around him.
"I’m really lucky to be a part of such a great team. We’re all passionate about our mission and don’t want to be anywhere else. Telling the Florida National Guard’s story is how my team and I contribute to what’s going on and I’m honored to be here."
Sgt. Spencer Rhodes at the OCCC COVID-19 testing site
Specialist Arron McDonagh
Spc. Arron McDonagh, a former Marine and a full-time civilian employee with Florida Highway Patrol, came to the OCCC Community-Based Testing Site with other Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 153 Cavalry Squadron, to train on proper care practices when performing test swabs. He says the chance to work on State Active Duty providing a community benefit is an awesome one. "It's a great opportunity to be a part of the COVID-19 response. Being able to help people is one of the reasons I joined the military."
Spc. Arron McDonagh at the OCCC COVID-19 testing site
Private First Class Stephanie Salvucci
PFC Stephanie Salvucci, with 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment, is currently activated in support of the OCCC Community-Based Testing Site. Outside of the military she works as a Lifeguard at the Lakeland Family YMCA while going to school part time at Polk State College. She says being able to provide relief to local residents is a sense of pride. "Being here I feel a sense of honor, I feel proud, because a lot of people here in our communities are a little nervous or have anxiety about the current situation. We're part of the mission that is helping calm everyone."
PFC Stephanie Salvucci at the OCCC COVID-19 testing site
Staff Sergeant Joshua Joyner
SSgt. Joshua Joyner, with the 125th Air Expeditionary Squadron, is activated at the OCCC Community-Based Testing Site. Prior to his service in the Florida Air National Guard, Joyner was a crew chief in the U.S. Air Force for six years. This being Joyner's first couple of years in the Florida National Guard, he did not know he would have the opportunity to serve his community so soon. "Everything here is going really smooth. We're staying safe and I'm excited to help out."
SSgt. Joshua Joyner at the OCCC COVID-19 testing site
The provided profiles and images are credited to the Florida National Guard. Follow their journey here, as they continue to support the Central Florida region through these challenging times.
*OCCC COVID-19 testing site collection figures current as of May 5, 2020.