Michigan National Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera
HOLLAND, Mich. – It has been nearly a year since the pandemic began in the United States and during this time, the National Guard has been helping fight COVID-19. Now, with thousands of vaccines needing to be administered daily across the state, the Michigan National Guard (MING) is still supporting Michiganders.
The Michigan National Guard has been working in Holland since the Ottawa County Health Department first started vaccinating their population, mainly those people who are in the 65 and older category. They are now starting to vaccinate educators as well.
“We are here servicing the Holland area and administering COVID vaccines all as a part of trying to get ahead and slow the spread,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Danyelle Foster, an administrative specialist with Task Force Spartan, Michigan Army National Guard. “I think this is a great event and I appreciate everyone who is coming out to get their vaccine, along with everyone who is helping this cause.”
Spartan is a Michigan National Guard Task Force that was set up to help with the COVID-19 relief efforts. First they helped with testing the residents and now they are also helping to vaccinate the population. Foster is new to the task force and to the National Guard. She has been in the Guard for less than two years and on this mission for about a month.
“Being in the National Guard means we are here for our state and our community,” said Foster. “We give back and are creating new partnerships and bonds between the military and the community that we serve. I think that is super important.”
Ottawa County does not have a National Guard armory, however, over the last year, local residents have become more aware of the Guard since the MING has played such a huge role in helping the local health department.
“We could not do these events without additional help—we have a limited staff and we still have (other) programs we need to run at the health department,” said Tonya Barber, the clerical staff supervisor for the Ottawa County Health Department. “Our staff is very thin, so to be able to have the National Guard jump in is great.”
Recently the Ottawa County Health Department received more vaccines they had previously scheduled and many people moved up on the list for their turn. The health department was planning on holding the event at the Grand Valley State University campus, which can handle up to a 1,000 people throughout the day. Due to receiving more vaccines than anticipated, they relocated the event to the larger Holland Civic Center and were able to vaccinate 1,600 residents.
“We have lots of room here and lots of organization was done ahead of time,” said Barber. “It’s going very well and the flow seems to be working great.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have been partnering with the Michigan National Guard since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and local health departments across the state are working to vaccinate Michiganders.