WPAFB Airmen deployed to help COVID vaccine clinic in Detroit

Airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base bundled up on Friday morning and drove to Detroit to help support a mass COVID vaccination effort.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the 88th Air Base Wing deployed about 120 Airmen to support a state-run, federally supported Community Vaccination Center at the Ford Field in Detroit.

“This team was tapped to help with a government operation to protect our nation. The team is excited about this opportunity to put shots in arms and protect the folks of Michigan,” said Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and Installation commander.

Miller told the Airmen, when speaking to them at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center before they deployed, that this is what they have been trained to do.

“You’re making a huge difference,” the commander said. “You’re getting them stronger. You’re making us better.”

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The Airmen from Wright-Patterson will join about 2,700 others from the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and Air Force already supporting the federal vaccination effort in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and in the U.S. Virgin islands. The bulk of those giving vaccines in Detroit will be from Wright-Patterson.

The team is capable of administering up to 6,000 vaccinations a day, but Miller said they are capable of doing more than that. The Airmen are all assigned to the 88th Medical Group.

The Airmen are scheduled to be deployed for six to 12 weeks. Miller said if needed, they are “on the hook” for up to 179 days.

“I’m just super proud of the team. We’ve been in this battle for a while now, over a year,” Miller said. “I am excited to see folks start to get around and feel a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more comfortable.”

Miller said over 14,000 vaccines have been given on base. About 7,000 people are fully vaccinated. Miller said each shot adds to the nation’s armor in the fight against COVID.

Lt. Destiny Jones, a nurse at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, was among those boarding the buses to deploy to Detroit on Friday morning.

“I’m blessed to have been selected to be the hands and feet of eradicating this virus. I’m excited to help my fellow Americans,” Jones said.

This is her first deployment.

“I’m excited to meet new people. I know the vaccine only takes five seconds to give, but I am excited to hear stories of how grateful they are for what we’re doing,” Jones said. “The more vaccines, the more people who are protected.”

Col. Jason Musser, Deputy Commander for the 88th Medical Group, said this deployment leaves the hospital with fewer staff, but won’t be closing any services. It may take patients and clients a little longer to get an appointment or hear back from a health care provider. Musser said the Wright-Patterson Medical Center will still be administering vaccines. Some vaccines are scheduled to be given on Monday and Tuesday at the Wright-Patterson Club.

The Airmen going to Detroit will start giving vaccine shots over the weekend.

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Airmen from Wright-Patterson were sent to new York at the beginning of the pandemic to help hospitals there. With only 24 hours’ notice, seven Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 445th Airlift Wing packed their bags, said goodbye to their families. The team of Air Force medical professionals volunteered to deploy in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Now they have a much different mission.

“What was once a deployment to try to figure out how to attack this and how do we save lives, is now a deployment of joy and hope,” Miller said.

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