PATERSON, New Jersey - After eight weeks of serving the communities within Somerset, Franklin, and Paterson, New Jersey, 25 service members, primarily Soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will return to their home stations. Team 1 of Task Force Northeast deployed in support of U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, to help provide continued, flexible DoD support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.
The team consisted of 23 medical-personnel Soldiers, including two physicians, assigned to Fort Campbell and two Sailors, working primarily within the pharmacy.
During the two months the team was deployed to New Jersey, Team 1 was able to administer approximately 15,000 COVID-19 vaccines and fully vaccinate over 6,000 people.
According to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sally P. Delvecchio, a Red Hook, New York, native, and the officer in charge assigned to the 586th Field Hospital, her team was able to play an important role precisely because of its smaller size.
“The reward of this deployment is knowing that we are reaching out to an underserved population,” Delvecchio said. “There are a lot of people that can’t make it to the mega-sites. Many of the community members in Paterson don’t have means of transportation and are literally walking to the Community Vaccination Center.”
Delvecchio and her team spent the first four weeks administering the primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. They began in Somerset at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Garden before moving to Paterson where they operated first out of Calvary Baptist Church Paterson and then out of Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
They then retraced their steps after the first four weeks. They operated out of the same locations, but during the concluding four-week cycle the team would be administering the second dose of the vaccine to community members.
The workload was great, but Delvecchio believed her team was more than up to the task of serving the people of New Jersey.
“This is a high-performing team,” Delvecchio said. “They’ve really come together, and it’s been a blessing and pleasure to lead them.”
Serving one’s country is often at the forefront of a Soldier’s mind during deployment, and perhaps there is no better way to accomplish this than to directly aid in upholding the safety and wellbeing of the American people.
Staff Sgt. Stacie Washington, a San Diego native and the noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to 586th Field Hospital, said she and her team had received many displays of appreciation from the community members they had been serving.
“The communities have been pouring out love to us,” Washington said. “Especially with walking around in uniform, we get people honking at us, giving us thumbs-up, and thanking us. It’s been really fulfilling.”
This deployment was the first for many of the service members involved. U.S. Army Spc. Zachary Burton, a Marion, Indiana, native and practical nursing specialist assigned to the 586th Field Hospital, said he had always thought his first deployment would be much different, imagining that he would likely deploy somewhere in the Middle East.
“I’ve seen people crying and hugging us because we were their only chance at getting a vaccine,” Burton said. “A lot of people couldn't make it out to one of the type 1 Community Vaccination Centers, or they've been waiting months and months.”
Team 1 is leaving New Jersey safer than they found it thanks to their hard work and the enormous amount of cooperation between the many government elements who have worked together for the sake of the nation’s safety. Nevertheless, all the success of this multifaceted collaboration can’t be solely attributed to the government’s effort in and of itself; rather, it seems that the success is ultimately achieved through the enthusiasm and sense of shared responsibility felt by both the government and civilian population alike.
“This is an incredibly unique situation where the Army is doing true humanitarian work on its own soil,” Delvecchio said. “It’s such a great opportunity for active duty Soldiers to reach out and benefit our own country and people directly.”