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Michigan vaccination teams bring hope to local communities

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker | Michigan National Guard | Feb. 18, 2021


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LANSING, Mich. – Soldiers and Airmen with Michigan’s Army and Air National Guard continue partnering with health departments at vaccination clinics around the state to help battle COVID-19.

One clinic was held in Battle Creek.

“Today, we are doing primarily our second dose for COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic,” said Brigette Reichenbaugh, deputy health officer with Calhoun County Public Health Department. “We expect to vaccinate about 900 people today.”

With more than 600 vaccination clinics scheduled throughout the week, the Michigan National Guard (MING) revisits counties across the state, ensuring maximum opportunities for those who wish to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve done five to six clinics with the Guard at different locations throughout the county so we can reach places like Battle Creek, which is the highest population,” said Reichenbaugh. “We have also held vaccination clinics with Marshall, Albion, and in Tekonsha, which is our most southern and smallest community.”

More than 90 MING COVID-19 Vaccination Testing Teams (CVTT) are assisting local health care organizations throughout Michigan.

“It’s been really helpful to have the Michigan National Guard assist us because it relieves our staff to be able to do other vaccination clinics throughout the county,” said Reichenbaugh. “We have Guard members educating people on the vaccine, directing from the registration to the vaccination stations … and we have Guard members doing the actual vaccines as well.”

“It’s been a great partnership, a great collaboration, and help to all of our staff,” she added.

“This is the real reason why I joined,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joe Wilhoit, assigned to the MING’s CVTT Task Force Bronco. “When I joined in 1990, I was just hoping to help out the community and contribute back to society.

“This makes my whole career worth it,” he said.

The 28-year veteran has had multiple deployments, including to Afghanistan and Iraq, but considers this state mobilization as his most fulfilling.

“It is rewarding to help out your fellow citizens and the older population – they hold the key to the past. You can’t learn from the past without them,” said Wilhoit.

The team leader has been on orders for about a month and in charge of the medical and administrative portion of the clinic operations.

“I lost my parents and my grandparents (not to COVID-19), and the idea of being able to help save somebody else’s is rewarding,” he said. “The best part of this job is you get to see the immediate fruits of your labor, and it’s very gratifying. I miss my mom every day and I don’t want somebody else to miss their mom one day too soon.”

The vaccine brings a sense of hope to Michiganders during uncertain times.

“I think a lot of residents have had that fear of getting COVID and being in that highest-risk population, so getting vaccinated perhaps relieves some of that stress,” said Reichenbaugh. “I feel it will give people a sense of going back to some sort of normalcy, especially for the seniors who haven’t been able to see their kids, grandkids, or families.”