NEWARK, New Jersey — Team 4 of Joint Task Force Civil Support has finished their 8-week deployment in support of the federal vaccine response. They arrived to support the federal pilot Type 4 Community Vaccination Center (CVC) at St. Matthew AME Church in City of Orange and the federal pilot Type 4 CVCs at Raphael Hernandez Elementary School and Jehovah Jireh Praise & Worship Church Center, both in Newark, New Jersey on March 11 and since then have spent their time serving the local communities.
The team of 23 service members was comprised primarily of Soldiers from various duty stations as well as six Sailors. In two months, they were able to administer approximately 16,500 COVID-19 vaccines to community members.
According to U.S. Army Col. Tomas Ferguson, a Rochester, Minnesota, native and the officer in charge of team 4, the deployment’s success was dependent on teamwork.
“Every time I have told this team what problem needs to be solved, they have figured out the solution, and in large part it was a good solution,” Ferguson said.
This wasn't Ferguson’s first time deploying in support of combating COVID-19. In the summer following the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S. he was sent to San Antonio, Texas, to aid in COVID-19 relief; however, this experience was much different than the present one.
“We helped hospitals that were overrun with COVID patients and were working shoulder-to-shoulders with civilians,” Ferguson said. “We were helping them get through difficult and sad times where they were massively overwhelmed. Now with this mission we are vaccinating people and they are so happy and grateful.”
Although team 4 is a type 4 CVC and thus smaller than many other vaccination centers, Ferguson believes their size is precisely what makes them effective in serving the communities.
“The concept of these type 4 sites is to put us into places where people aren't going to the bigger CVCs,” Ferguson said. “The point is that people in the community can basically just walk down the block and get their vaccination. They’ve been very grateful and it’s been very gratifying for us.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Ladd, a Mayfield, Kentucky, native and health care specialist assigned to the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, believes the community members weren't the only ones to benefit from this deployment.
“It was rewarding to be able to help citizens of the United Stated on this deployment, rather than being on a foreign deployment,” Ladd said. “It really is rewarding to know that the good is being done here at home.”
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Higgs, a Brooklyn, New York, native and hospital corpsman assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command San Diego, felt that regardless of how complicated the mission was, it was accomplished because everyone involved had something in common that held them together.
“The beauty of this mission was to see how different entities and groups can work through the problems and work together as long as there is a common goal,” Higgs said.