JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
Between the months of March and May, Airmen from the 87th Medical Group were dispatched to the Roosevelt Park COVID vaccination distribution site, located in Gary, Indiana. The deployment occurred in support of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) request to assist with whole-of-government COVID vaccination efforts. Personnel from approximately 135 Air Force installations, including those from the 87th MDG, provided vaccination support to over 50,000 civilians.
During the two-month deployment operation, U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Brittney Sturgis, 87th Medical Support Squadron medical readiness flight commander, was appointed as the officer-in-charge for Detachment 2 of the 64th Air Expeditionary Group at the vaccination site. Sturgis shared her past experiences working at the site.
“When I received word from MAJCOM that I was one of the 42 members of the 87th MDG assigned to embark on this challenging task, I did not know what to expect. As soon as I arrived to my designated location, I was thrust into a fast-paced working environment. At the end, it turned out to be a truly rewarding experience,” said Sturgis. “It was interesting that my team and I collaborated with representatives from the state of Indiana, FEMA, and the U.S. Army to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to civilians in an underserved region of the U.S. like Gary, Indiana. We worked non-stop to make sure that our citizens were receiving plenty of care and support from us. This was a great experience that I will not forget through time.”
Working seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the site, Sturgis stated that she was grateful that there was a joint community between the military and emergency medical services (EMS) that assisted her team with completing the mission. She mentioned that if it was not for the collaboration, completing the mission would have been more difficult. Along with Sturgis, other Airmen from the 87th MDG shared their experiences working at the vaccine site.
“Working at the site in Gary, Indiana has been a truly unforgettable experience, due to excellent leadership and working with an excellent team of medics willing to complete the mission with such persistence,” stated U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Saundra Turner, 87th MDG NCOIC of education and training. “It was great that I was able to be a part of a team that helped countless civilians from Indiana and Illinois in providing medical support, since I have a strong passion in helping the community.”
As Turner proudly shared her experience from the site, U.S. Air Force Maj. Janet Rice, 87th MDG education and training flight commander, added her perspective from the deployment.
“It was an exceptional experience to help bring the world back into a state of normalcy,” said Rice. “I am very proud to say that joint effort from the military and other emergency medical services have been major contributions in helping to complete our mission objective, with great success.”
Lastly, U.S. Air Force MSgt. Lori Jones, 87 MDSS resource management flight chief, stated how the experience affected her.
“There was a great need for us to be out there in Gary, Indiana. I was fortunate to be a part of the mission because I enjoy helping communities through medical support,” said Jones. “Before the 42 of us from the 87th MDG were sent to this deployment, we did not have the chance to know each other. We were a bunch of unknowns working in different offices. After performing such hard work from our deployment, my team and I grew a tight bond as soon as we returned to our workplace. Teamwork has been a great asset in completing our mission.”