WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Medical personnel who have put more than 14,000 vaccines in arms at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have deployed to Detroit this weekend to continue their work on the national scale. Members of the 88th Medical Group were tapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Friday to assist in the state’s Community Vaccination Clinic at Ford Field.
The 120 members of the 88th Medical Group will be the primary force putting shots in arms, Air Force leadership said. The group from Wright-Patterson joins 2,700 servicemen and women from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps who have mobilized across the country to support the vaccination effort. The Community Vaccine Clinic (CVC) in Detroit is run by the state of Michigan, and supported by federal personnel including FEMA and the military.
“This is a whole of government operation,” said Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing. “We are there to do what we do best: save lives, protect lives.”
As part of a Type Team 1 unit, the 120 airmen are projected to be able to deliver up to 6,000 shots a day. However, Miller said he and his leadership team believe that they can do better than that.
“We kind of chuckled at that,” Miller told the assembled servicemembers early Friday morning. “We know you all are capable of doing much more. We’re adding and strengthening the armor in the fight against COVID-19. You all are experts in this.”
This is not the first time Wright-Patterson personnel have deployed to support the national COVID-19 effort. Last year, airmen deployed to New York to assist in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus at its peak. However, for those medics, as well as Air Force leadership at Wright-Patt, the energy is different this time around.
Lt. Destiny Jones, a nurse with the 88th Medical Group, said she and her colleagues are looking forward at their deployment “with a positive lens.”
“There’s going to be long days, long shifts, but just knowing that at the end of the day, we’re helping the greater good, we’re helping people get their lives back,” she said.
Added Miller, “Last year, we were trying to figure out ‘What is this COVID-19 pandemic going to do to us?’ What was once a deployment of ‘How do we attack this?’ ‘How do we save lives?’ is now a deployment of joy and hope, of ‘How do we protect and get back to some sense of normalcy?’ ”
The 120 airmen will spend between six and 12 months in Detroit but are on the hook for as long as 179 days, according to the commander. After they finish in Detroit, they may be deployed to assist with vaccination clinics in other parts of the country.
“This is what has been your calling, your profession, what the Air Force has asked you to do,” Miller told medics in his briefing. “They got you ready for this moment, to step into this arena to protect our home team. You are getting ready to go out and make a difference, a huge difference.”
Ohio has been slightly ahead of the rest of the country in the vaccination effort, and the base is “trying to do our part,” Miller said.
As the vaccine is still considered emergency use authorization, around 50 percent of the medics deploying have gotten the vaccine themselves. However, those medics will have the opportunity to be vaccinated once they arrive in Detroit.
With 14,000 shots administered at Wright-Patt, just under 7,000 personnel at the installation have been fully vaccinated. However, this number does not include those on the installation who may have received a vaccine through a civilian source, something Miller says the installation is encouraging.
“We’re telling people, don’t wait on us,” Miller said. “Take advantage of every opportunity to get the vaccine you can.”
According to Lt. Col. Jason Musser, deputy commander for the 88th Medical Group, more vaccines are on the way, with vaccinations resuming at Wright-Patterson as early as next week.
“Monday and Tuesday we will be delivering more vaccines at the Wright-Patterson Club,” Musser said. “We are very excited to continue our efforts along with Ohio’s efforts to get everyone vaccinated.”
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.