Workers in the war against COVID-19 are tenacious, steadfast and resilient. While our nation’s healthcare workers are dedicated to saving lives, many other men and women are working behind-the-scenes to protect the elderly living in residential and assisted living homes and working in testing sites to identify citizens who may also be infected with the virus.
Austin Lopeman, Georgia Tech Army ROTC Cadet, veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and third-year Scheller undergraduate student is one of those behind-the-scenes workers. Serving with the Georgia National Guard, he was initially called to join the Infection Control Team as an Assistant Team Leader when the pandemic broke out and was working side-by-side with healthcare workers and residents of these facilities. However, as the Army pivoted quickly to address additional needs in the community, he was assigned to work in a local mobile testing site for civilians in Cobb County.
When he’s not working at the testing site or attending classes at Scheller and Georgia Tech’s ROTC, he’s serving in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit of the Army at Dobbins Air Force Base, where he continues to train and maintain readiness for future missions that may occur. The unit requires technical acumen, critical thinking, and the ability to adapt to constant change.
Perhaps these traits are what make Lopeman a successful student with a determination to finish his degree at Tech and join the ranks of other alumni.
“A Georgia Tech degree is especially important to me because I am a first-generation college student. There isn’t an accolade out there that I will be prouder of than my degree from Georgia Tech,” he said.
For now, though, Lopeman’s biggest job is protecting those most susceptible to COVID-19.
“Once I received the call to duty, I let my professors know and without hesitation, each one reached out and offered their support. Where I have been most surprised is the support I received from fellow Scheller students,” he said. They showed their support by accommodating his schedule, offering late Zoom sessions, and texting late at night on group projects. He was determined to succeed, and he just finished his final projects and exams for the semester.
Last summer, Lopeman worked with Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, California as a Supply Chain Intern and has plans to continue full time again this summer once this tour of duty is finished.
“No one is entirely sure how long this pandemic is going to last. All I know is as long as my name has been called I will be there to help.”