Michigan National Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Michigan Army and Air National Guard members, along with health department officials and volunteers, were on hand during a community based COVID-19 vaccination clinic held at the YMCA of Battle Creek. Guard members who are medics were administering the vaccine, the Calhoun County Health Department officials were monitoring the operations, and volunteers were helping out wherever needed.
“I always ask ‘are you going to be part of the problem or the solution’ and I like thinking that we’re part of the solution,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Otho D. Scarbrough, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Battle Creek clinic. “Whatever I can do to make things better overall for humanity, I have no problem with that.”
Scarbrough, who serves with the 127th Wing, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, is on Task Force Bronco, part of a joint Michigan National Guard COVID-19 task force that assists local health departments with the vaccine efforts around the state.
“The event here is going great. There are no lines and the staff and volunteers are very friendly,” said Scarbrough.
The YMCA of Battle Creek is the largest in the area, so there is plenty of room for holding a large clinic for the citizens of the city. With all the space available, holding a vaccine clinic was the perfect thing to do.
“This is just such a good community service—everything about it is just great,” said Linda Tsoumas, a YMCA volunteer. “We, as volunteers from the YMCA, are glad to work with the public and honored to work with the public health department and the National Guard.”
Tsoumas is on the Board of Directors for the YMCA of Augusta, but she was one of several volunteers who helped with the Battle Creek clinic. She has already received her second dose of the vaccine and was helping her fellow residents in getting their second dose.
“I think we’re doing well, we’re progressing. There’s still a lot of people on the waiting list, but it’s encouraging to see everyone coming out for it,” said Tsoumas. “I don’t think we know what the new normal is going to be, but we all want to get back to living and we need to do this—it is important and if we can help make it happen, that is great.”
Not every clinic is the same. Some are a drive-thru, some are at medical centers, while others are held at community centers such as the YMCA of Battle Creek. Volunteers can be spotted at just about any of the community based vaccination events.
“Having the volunteers is just as important as the rest of us because we’re all in this together and just one lacking component would put so much more pressure on everybody else,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Geist, with the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, currently assigned as a medic with Task Force Bronco. “In my opinion, it makes so much difference to have those volunteers there because it relieves the workload for everybody else.”
Geist has been part of the COVID-19 relief effort since last spring and has seen the team efforts of the National Guard, health departments and everyone willing to work together can do to beat back the virus in the State of Michigan.
“The overall feeling is that this is something to be proud of. For me I’m proud to be doing this and helping our communities with something like this,” said Geist. “I think everyone who is part of this is part of history.”