COLUMBUS, Neb. – The Nebraska National Guard continues to support the Department of Health and Human Services-led statewide response to the ongoing novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and is now assisting by administering COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible non-military recipients on a voluntary basis. Guard members helped administer the first doses of the vaccine to more than 700 local residents Jan. 21, 2021, in Columbus.
The mission comes on the heels of a nearly year-long effort in which Nebraska Soldiers and Airmen were called upon to assist local and state officials in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in many different ways, including COVID-19 mobile testing teams and support to local food banks.
As part of the most recent joint effort, the team of three Soldiers and one Airman assisted the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Resources, East Central District Health Department, local volunteer nurses and staff from the City Emergency Management Agency with administering vaccines, verifying documents and completing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination cards.
“Our mission is to help DHHS, or the local residents, bolster their abilities to administer vaccinations,” said Army Staff Sgt. Brad Wardyn, a flight medic with Company G, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion.
“Civilian medical personnel are taxed with COVID and now we can help administer COVID vaccinations to help minimize the impact it has on the local community.”
Along with administering vaccines, the team helped set up chairs and tables, issue CDC vaccine cards and disinfect chairs in between vaccinations. Health care providers appreciated the support and said they enjoyed working with the National Guard.
“They are highly organized and efficient; they bring a positive attitude to the team and they are capable of accomplishing any task presented to them,” said Libby Finochiaro, the emergency response coordinator for the East Central District Health Department. “We are very thankful to have the National Guard on our team.”
The Soldiers and Airmen said they were proud to be able to lend a hand wherever they can to assist state and local health care providers during the monumental vaccination effort.
“As a Guard Soldier I jump at any opportunity to assist with a need within our state,” said Army Sgt. Justen Meneses, military police with the Nebraska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters. “When given opportunity to serve with the COVID vaccine, I accepted and was eager to begin helping the community. I have a strong belief in service and this mission is helping those who are vulnerable and seeking to return to a normal way of life.”
They said the opportunity to continue to help during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially significant and meaningful.
“As a whole, my team and I loved this mission and the community of Columbus,” Meneses added. “Its an honor to serve Columbus and especially the state of Nebraska.”