DALLAS – Lines of cars pull in through the Fair Park parking lot, each driver a potential recipient of the COVID-19 vaccination. As drivers are directed through the vaccination site, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) volunteer workers and U.S. Army Soldiers work side-by-side, rain or shine, to administer the vaccine to the community members . FEMA was authorized to support vaccination administration locations within underserved communities across the U.S. and its territories. FEMA workers trained the Soldiers on administering the vaccine and operating the online patient medical information system.
“We shadowed FEMA and their volunteers on how to do things, and now we’re here giving the shots to the civilian population, with help of course of FEMA,” said Spc. Gavin Escalera, an active-duty combat medic assigned to 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “I feel it’s a great deal for active-duty to actually help the population get the vaccine.”
Escalera and approximately 138 other Soldiers with his unit and 1st Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Dallas early February to provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) for FEMA at the Fair Park Community Vaccination Center (CVC).
“I think it’s been great out here,” said Pfc. Wascar Paulino, an active-duty combat medic assigned to 1st Battalion . “Being down here in Texas, I feel we’re doing something that’s really good for the people and I’m very excited to be here.”
The Soldiers arrive at the CVC in the early morning hours, Monday through Saturday, to receive the vaccines from hospitals and prepare them for administration at the site. The Soldiers and medical personnel administer approximately 3000 doses of the vaccine before noon. They continue vaccinating through the afternoon, totaling approximately 6000 to 8000 vaccines administered every day. The Soldiers take advantage of the time to interact with the community members to build relations between the Dallas residents and the service members.
“The recipients are very helpful and they’re really excited to get the vaccination,” said 1st Lt. Hannah Giller, an active-duty medical surgical nurse assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii. “You can tell they’re very appreciative of us being here. It’s just a really great experience to interact with these people.”
Many of the Soldiers participating in the vaccine relief efforts have their own personal experiences dealing with COVID-19.
“My grandparents got COVID and they came down pretty hard with all the symptoms,” said Escalera. “Everybody came out okay, so I’m thankful for that.”
With that personal connection, the Soldiers have expressed their motivation to help deliver these vaccines to the underserved communities and give as many people the opportunity to receive the vaccination as possible.
“Two of my high school coaches passed away from COVID. It was a really big hit on our community,” said Giller. “I realize how important this is to a lot of families, and it gives you a great feeling that you’re actually doing something to help America.”
The Soldiers have gratitude to the county of Dallas, the help and guidance they’ve received from FEMA, and the volunteer workers.
“I just want to thank everybody for everything that they’re doing,” said Escalera. “The volunteers are here everyday just like we are. Everybody has their own part to play.”
These Soldiers remain committed to continuing their mission here for as long as they’re needed.
“At first, I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived,” said Giller. “Now that we’re actually drawing up the vaccinations, seeing the people’s reactions when they get it, it really gives you a sense of purpose, and I’m just so happy to be here helping these people out.”
U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued, flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19 .