TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The final 43 Airmen tracked by First Air Force’s 64th and 335th Air Expeditionary Groups (AEGs) returned to their home stations Tuesday, marking the end of nearly four months supporting the whole-of-government response to COVID-19 at Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) across the country.
Collectively, Airmen administered more than 1.6 million vaccinations at 10 centers located in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.
“The Department of Defense vaccination missions started out as eight week missions,” said Col. Jeffry Hollman, commander, 335th AEG. “Several missions were extended out by four weeks. The New Jersey mission was one of those missions, and over a 12-week period, they delivered more than 200,000 vaccinations to the citizens of Newark.”
Newark, the last federally supported community vaccination center, conducted its final day of operations on Sunday.
While U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command's Joint Force Land Component Command, managed the combined federal effort, which led to DOD personnel supporting operations at 48 vaccination sites across the nation, the Department of Defense began sourcing active duty Air Force personnel to federal vaccination efforts in February 2021.
“It’s amazing to be part of something so historically significant. [The 64th AEG] has seen Airmen from 42 different bases come to the five different sites and vaccinate already, just in the time we’ve been part of this, 786,000 individuals, said Col. David Vanderburg, commander, 64th AEG.
The 64th AEG tracked more than 830 Airmen assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron (EMDOS), located in Houston, Texas, at Reliant Stadium; Detachment 1, located in Detroit, Mich., at Ford Field; Detachment 2, located in Gary, Ind., at Theodore Roosevelt Park; Detachment 3, located in Saint Paul, Minn., at the Minnesota State Fair; and Detachment 4, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., at DeVos Place.
Similarly, the 335th AEG managed approximately 775 Airmen supporting the 335th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron located at the Medgar Evers College Community Vaccination Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Detachment 1, located in Tampa, Fla.; Detachment 2, located in Greensboro, N.C., at Four Season Town Centre.; Detachment 3, located in Newark, N.J., at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Detachment 4, located in Greenbelt, M.D., at Greenbelt Metro Station.
“Overall across the entire [335th] we delivered 885,000 vaccines,” said Hollman. “It’s incredibly unique, because unlike many of our deployments overseas, our main mission here was in support of the American people, and protecting them against the deadly pandemic Corona Virus Disease 2019.”
For some Airmen, like Capt. Ayesha Safo, Family Medicine physician and Medical Director of the Family Health clinic 628 Medical Group (MDG) at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., deploying in support of a federally supported, state-led CVC was a first.
“During this deployment, I served as the provider team lead overseeing the health and wellness of our 135 deployers at the [Minnesota] State Fair Grounds CVC. All of the providers worked closely with our observation team to ensure the safety of each patient during the recommended waiting period after their vaccine administration,” said Safo. “It has been an immensely rewarding experience supporting the State of Minnesota and FEMA in providing vaccine relief to this local community.”
For other Airmen, while not a first deployment, it was a once in a life time experience.
“This deployment was truly eye-opening for me, complex, and challenging at times, an experience I am proud of and thankful to have taken part in," said Senior Master Sgt. David “Jarod” Wright, 64th AEG superintendent. “I was unable to receive a vaccination prior to deploying. However, after joining the team and seeing our Airmen working hard, I jumped at the opportunity to receive my vaccine from an incredible Airman assigned to the Community Vaccination Center in Gary, Ind. I am grateful to have taken part in such a historic event for our country, and our Air Force, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
“We are extremely proud of our Airmen from all over the country, who came together to support CVC sites under the 64th and 335th AEG flags,” said Lt .Gen. Kirk Pierce, Commander 1AF (AFNORTH). “Our Airmen once again proved they are ready and able to provide defense support of civil authorities and then return to their mission of generating combat air power at home and down range.”
While the federal, DOD-led vaccination effort has concluded, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told defense reporters Monday that the National Guard’s state effort will continue at the discretion of governors.