Georgia State Defense Force photo by Pvt. Oliver Price
GSDF’s First Class to Graduate During the Coronavirus Pandemic
By Pvt. Taryn Evans
On Sunday, August 2, 2020, the Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) welcomed Soldiers from Initial Entry Training (IET) Alpha Class—the first GSDF class to graduate during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Initial Entry Training Alpha Class is the first GSDF class to graduate during COVID-19. The graduation ceremony was held at a historic chapel, Clay National Guard Center, Marietta, Ga., August 2, 2020.
COVID-19 presented various challenges for Alpha Class. But these Soldiers faced and overcame them. With encouragement and determination—along with social distancing—the class successfully graduated 14 Soldiers.
The class graduated at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. Pvt. Bryan Galloway earned the class leadership award. Pvt. Lauren Boyle-Estheimer earned the class academic award.
IET, a program of physical and mental training, is a prerequisite to becoming a Soldier in the GSDF.
1st Brigade Graduates its First IET Class—in the Wake of COVID-19
Alpha Class was unique for yet another reason—it was the first IET class for the GSDF’s 1st Brigade. GSDF 1st Sgt. Hoyt “Doug” Ford and his team of qualified cadre were IET instructors.
Alpha Class met on March 7, 2020. But on March 14, 2020—just one week later—Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp signed a public health state of emergency to address COVID-19 in the state.
Typically, Alpha Class would have graduated in May. In the wake of an unprecedented pandemic, the class graduated in August instead.
Nevertheless, Alpha Class remained intact. Soldiers maintained weekly contact and participated in multiple Zoom courses.
“The virus placed a strain on everyone,” 1st Sgt. Ford said. “The class stayed focused. The team of instructors stayed focused. The virus proved to be a great mental test for the students, for me, and for my team, but in the end, we all passed the test.”
Instead of the pandemic driving these Soldiers apart, COVID-19’s challenges brought them closer together. As the Alpha Class motto goes, “Alpha Leads!”
Georgia State Defense Force photo by Pvt. Taryn Evans
At the invitation of Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick O’Leary, Command Sgt. Maj. Roy F. Marchert attended the GSDF’s Initial Entry Training Alpha Class graduation ceremony, Clay National Guard Center, Marietta, Ga., August 2, 2020. Command Sgt Maj. Marchert is the senior enlisted advisor to Georgia Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Carden Jr.