FORT CARSON, Colo. – Nearly 140 Soldiers assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 4th Infantry Division, are providing vaccinations to members of the Pueblo community in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Soldiers deployed from Fort Carson on Monday, April 12, 2021, in support of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) COVID-19 response operations.
This team will join more than 4,800 troops from across the Department of Defense (DOD) supporting the federal vaccination effort. Nationwide, DOD personnel have administered upwards of 2.6 million vaccinations across 38 cities in 23 states, including the U.S. Virgin Islands territory.
“We’ve been training and preparing for a COVID vaccination mission somewhere in the U.S.,” said Lt. Col. Gary McDonald, the commander of 3rd Squadron, 61st Calvary Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “When we were told we were going to Pueblo, we were very excited.”
Last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced FEMA will transition the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, Colorado into a FEMA pilot site to increase vaccination distribution efforts to community members. The site aims to provide 3,000 vaccinations per day, seven days per week. This is an improvement from just over 1,700 vaccinations per day prior to the transition to a pilot site.
"Until it's done and until there's no more people showing up at the vaccination site, we'll be there," McDonald said. "It really depends on the locals, if we can get the citizenry to show up and get the shots."
Current Pueblo resident and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Montelongo, a combat medic assigned to 2nd SBCT, 4th Inf. Div., was born and raised in Pueblo and is eager to support the community members of his hometown. He has many family members who still live in Pueblo, and the opportunity to practice his craft in his hometown, taking action to help save American lives, is one that he cherishes and never thought he would have.
"Not once did I think that I would be able to support not only Colorado, but my local community," said Montelongo.
In addition to protecting the community and supporting federal partners, this unique mission also serves as a way for medical professionals throughout the Brigade to enhance their readiness.
“This is right up their alley; this is what they are trained to do. Whether it’s here or abroad, this is their mission,” said McDonald.
Members of the Pueblo community have been both welcoming and grateful for the support of the Soldiers from Fort Carson.
"They're excited, you should see some of the people who drive through the gates," said Montelongo. "They're hooting and hollering at us and thanking us for being out there to help support the community and thanking us for our service at the same time."