Michigan National Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard (MING) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) have been working together throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and are continuing that partnership throughout the vaccination process. Task Force Spartan is providing more than 45 COVID-19 vaccination and testing teams, consisting of medical and administrative personnel to assist MDHHS in augmentation of vaccination and administrative support to local hospitals.
“During Michigan’s COVID-19 response, MDHHS is ensuring medical facilities have access to the COVID-19 vaccine to safeguard our health care professionals,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, MDHHS. “The partnership between MDHHS and the Michigan National Guard is vital to the success of the vaccine distribution and plays a significant role in the success of our mission.”
The teamwork between MDHHS and the MING is helping ensure vaccinations are distributed in a timely manner to help mitigate COVID-19 and protect the communities within Michigan’s 83 counties.
“We are looking forward to ultimately trying to save lives in the state of Michigan,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Taylor, 63rd Troop Command, Michigan Army National Guard, currently serving as senior noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force Spartan. “We are continuing to build relationships within our communities."
“The Army and Air National Guard have done a phenomenal job over the last nine months, since they were called up to support COVID operations, said Taylor.”
Since the spring, the MING has had more than 1100 Soldiers and Airmen working throughout the state providing support to communities during the pandemic.
“National Guard members have been essential to our testing strategy and have been providing support to help conduct testing in nursing facilities, prisons and through numerous pop-up testing events across the state,” said Khaldun. “We appreciate their support throughout the pandemic and look forward to our continued partnership as we move into their next chapter of the pandemic.”
The Guard is ready to surge their testing and vaccination team capacity when needed in any location throughout Michigan. The COVID-19 vaccination mission will be an ongoing endeavor as the Michigan National Guard works to stay in front of the demands of the health care system throughout the state.Distribution of the vaccine is being conducted in a phased approach, with an emphasis on both ensuring the continuing functioning of the health care system and essential services in the community and protecting people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. These prioritizations may change as more information on vaccine effectiveness and additional vaccination products become available.
“I think their (MING) ability to have a coordinated concerted effort is great and I’m glad they’re involved in the distribution process,” said Dr. Marc McClelland a pulmonary and critical care physician at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids. “I really appreciate their support and service and especially so close to home here with COVID-19.”
McClelland was the first in his hospital to receive the vaccine and expressed his thoughts on front-line care workers and the priority of receiving the vaccination first.
“It was pretty exhilarating because it feels like this moment has been long in coming and I’d like for everybody to look at this as a really great opportunity,” he said.
Even though McClelland has received the vaccine, he is not letting his guard down when it comes to getting the virus. He said there are too many unknowns that come along with a new vaccine, and until the majority of the public has been vaccinated he will not relax his efforts to ward off the virus. He plans to continue the overall good practice of washing his hands thoroughly, as well as wearing his mask.
“This mission is literally saving the lives of people – that is a very powerful sentiment,” said U.S. Army Maj. Douglas Smith, Michigan Army National Guard, who is serving as officer in charge of Task Force Spartan. “The level of effort and passion that our guardsmen have for helping our communities is amazing to witness.”
The Michigan National Guard has spent months testing for COVID-19 throughout the state, assisting in food banks, and working at regional care facilities. The Soldiers and Airmen have been essential in fighting the virus and providing the state with other lifesaving efforts and now they are on to the important lifesaving effort of getting the safe and effective vaccine out to the State of Michigan.
For more information please visit cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/Pfizer. For Michigan residents looking for more information please go to Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine.