BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Soldiers from the Kentucky Army National Guard supported civilian medical specialists at a COVID-19 vaccination site on March 12.
Several Guard members from the 75th Troop Command participated in the busy day of vaccine administration. The Soldiers started their mission on Jan. 24, when the first doses were given, and they expect to continue assisting for six months.
"As of March 12, this vaccine site has administered about 12,000 of the Pfizer vaccines at a rate of about 700 first doses and 700-second doses per day," said Capt. Thomas Czartorski, commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry. Czartorski was the officer in charge of the Guard members in Bowling Green.
"Our Soldiers' main goal here is to help the medical and administrative staff keep the process running smoothly," Czartorski noted.
Partnering with Kroger, the Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Emergency Management, and emergency medical services personnel from Med Center Health, the Soldiers assisted with various duties at the site in Greenwood Mall. The Kentucky Guard is also assisting at vaccination sites in Louisville, Lexington and elsewhere.
"I can't speak highly enough about how well the pieces came together to achieve this mission," Czartorski said. "This is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had with the Kentucky National Guard.
"We live in these communities, too," he said. "Making the process safer for those wishing to get vaccinated is a way we are giving back and helping the folks we might see every day."
Staff Sgt. Patrick Davis, a signal support systems specialist for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-149th Infantry, served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of Soldiers supporting the vaccine administration.
Davis said Soldiers greet citizens at the door to see if they have an appointment, help those seeking an appointment get one, assist with wheelchairs, set out socially distanced chairs if the line gets too long, and offer water as needed. In other areas, Soldiers distribute vaccine information packets, lead people through the process, check for the necessary paperwork, sanitize vaccine stations, and sanitize the observation area for those who have received their vaccine.
"As a Soldier with 15 years in the National Guard, observing newer Soldiers getting out into the community and getting to see the impact they are making is truly motivating," Davis said.
Pfc. Mitchell Johnson, a 23-year-old intelligence analyst with Headquarters, Headquarters Co., 1-149th Infantry, spoke of his role in the mission as a young Soldier.
"I helped facilitate the lines at the vaccination site and provided information to the citizens about the vaccine they are taking," said Johnson. "I also answered a lot of questions and did whatever I could to help them have a positive experience getting their vaccinations."
Johnson noted one lady in line was very upset.
"She had a heart condition and a prior surgery that kept her from walking well. I saw this and comforted her. I helped her into a wheelchair, and she spoke about the farm she grew up on and how her kids were doing. When she left, we helped her find her car.
"This experience has made me realize the power we have," he said. "By showing this person the respect she deserved, it really brightened her day and allowed her to receive a service she otherwise might have passed up due to inconvenience."
"This mission has given these Soldiers a sense of humbling pride," Davis said. "The COVID-19 mission has really shown Kentucky Soldiers the importance of why we are here.
"It has also been crucial to the community to let them know we are here for them for more than just natural disasters and other state emergencies."