Total Force medics help support FEMA in vaccine efforts
By Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 30, 2021
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA--As of April 29, approximately 1.5 million people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19, making vaccination efforts more crucial than ever.
A team of approx. 140 Airmen from 24 bases spread throughout the U.S. have come together in St. Paul, Minn., to help support the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the effort to vaccinate Americans from COVID-19.
The St. Paul Community Vaccination Center (CVC) is responsible for about 3,000 vaccinations daily.
“The CVC is crucial to the COVID-19 vaccine effort because it brings vaccines to areas of the country that are hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Ballak, 64th Air Expeditionary Group detachment 3 commander. “The CVC allows us to bring vaccines to people who may not be able to or otherwise have the means to get the vaccine.”
Although the center opened less than a month ago, the total-force team has already vaccinated over 38,000 community members as of April 28, 2021.
“I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to lead Airmen from 24 bases across the US,” said Ballak. “It is certainly a challenge to bring 135 Airmen together and have them operate as a team in such a short period of time. It’s truly a testament to the professionalism of our Airmen to come together as strangers, focus on the mission and get the job done. Being the commander of such an amazing team is certainly the highlight of my career.”
There are currently 39 other vaccination sites located in 19 states, not including the CVC now held in St. Paul. Keeping these centers up and running takes many Airmen from different Air Force Specialty Codes, including maintenance, weather and communications.
“The medics are our linchpins in this process, but the countless other AFSCs supporting this site are instrumental in many other roles that allow our medical team to deliver those vaccines,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Timothy Lenker, 64th Air Expeditionary Group detachment 3 first sergeant.
The medics have also been working with several agencies since setting up the CVC to include the Minnesota Department of Health and other emergency management teams.
In a press release Tim Walz, Minnesota state governor, said that the vaccination site will receive 168,000 doses over the course of eight weeks. These doses will, in turn, lead to more than 100,000 total people being vaccinated.
“Being a young Airman only two years into my career as a mental health technician and having the opportunity to support the COVID-19 vaccine mission is very humbling,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Shelby Diedrich, 22nd Healthcare Operations Squadron mental health technician. “It means a lot to me knowing we are making a difference in hopefully bringing back some normalcy since the start of the pandemic.”
The CVC will continue to serve the St. Paul community by administering vaccines for weeks to come. For more information about the CVC please visit https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/vaccine-support/vaccine-center.