Michigan National Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera
IONIA, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard Task Force Bronco, at the request of the health department, recently assisted with administering vaccines to the residents of Ionia County. Anyone over the age of 65 had to register for an appointment online then come to the Ionia County Road Department for their COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
“We have a small health department and relatively few staff and it helps to have additional staffing to run clinics more effectively,” said Ken Bowen, a health officer with the Ionia County Health Department. “It was great — the Guard members are professional and work well with our staff and the public.”
The clinic held at the road department was a drive-thru vaccination site, an added benefit for residents who are not as mobile. The road department has a large garage that is heated and can accommodate many vehicles at the same time. After receiving the vaccine, residents can pull forward and wait the 15-30-minute mandatory observation time.
“Finding a location that is effective and allows for spacing people out and keeping everyone safe was a challenge,” said Bowen.
The health department wants the whole experience to be safe for everyone to include residents who are able to get the vaccine, health department employees, volunteers, and the National Guard.
“This experience is very rewarding,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stan Mikelsavage, non-commissioned officer in charge for Task Force Bronco. “The people including the county health administration and volunteers here have been extremely appreciative of us and are very accommodating so we can perform our task of providing assistance to them.”
“I am so grateful to be an active member of the Michigan Air National Guard so that I may do what I am committed to do — to protect and serve our great state of Michigan,” he said.
Every county health department has different procedures in place for setting up clinics. Larger counties have multiple places to hold their clinics depending on how much vaccines they are giving out. Ionia County is a smaller community with a population of just less than 65,000 people.
“Every county health department has different procedures that accommodate the facilities and environment they have at that time,” said Mikelsavage. “This offers us the opportunity to actively observe and partake in how each county’s operational procedures work and with that knowledge, we are able to provide suggestions if any issues need to be resolved and we can offer solutions we have gained from other vaccination sights that we have worked.”
“Things have been going pretty well at all the sights that we go to, and they are constantly improving and streamlining processes as they progress,” he said.
Ionia County is focused on providing vaccines to their older population. This included a 101-year-old man who came for his first dose.
“That was amazing,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ayanna McFaddin, with the Michigan Air National Guard. “I have a deep respect for senior citizens.”“Not many of us will get to be 100 years old and anyone that age has so much knowledge and life experience and I find it to be very comforting to be around them — just knowing that I was providing the vaccine to him was amazing.”
McFaddin, a medic with Task Force Bronco, has been part of the vaccination clinics for more than a month and loves the opportunity to vaccinate other Michiganders. In her civilian career, she works for the State of Michigan by helping economically challenged citizens apply for food stamps and other assistance programs. She is no stranger to helping others but now she feels privileged to have the opportunity to play an important role by giving vaccines to older and more vulnerable citizens.
“I love what I do and I’m going to continue to do what I need to do,” said McFaddin. “Whether it’s testing, vaccines, or just monitoring a patient, I am there to provide the support so that we can get over this.”