Detroit – Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, visited deployed Airmen from the 88th Medical Group on May 3 to observe and receive updates on the COVID-19 vaccination process.
The 88 MDG currently has 119 Airmen deployed to the federally supported community vaccination center at Ford Field in Detroit.
Miller was joined by Col. Christian Lyons, 88 MDG commander; Chief Master Sgt. Jason Shaffer, 88 ABW command chief; Chief Master Sgt. Benito Hibbert, 88 MDG group superintendent; and Gregory Leingang, 88 ABW vice director.
During their visit, the leadership team observed firsthand what 88 MDG medics are doing on the ground.
“We got to spend some amazing time here,” Miller said. “It has been truly remarkable to hear their stories of what they are doing with vaccines, from process improvements to make the system better to gaining trust from the Meijer Pharmacy team that is overseeing this operation and working hand in hand with the National Guard, public health service and (Federal Emergency Management Agency).”
The Airmen are also boosting public trust, he added.
“They are making a difference each and every day,” Miller said. “One of our characteristics of the 88 ABW is ‘trusted.’ When you look at what our Airmen are doing, they are building trust in the medical system and giving people the freedom to move around to see family and friends they may not have seen in over a year.”
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. also praised the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base group’s efforts.
“Our Airmen are on the front lines doing great work with their community partners here in Detroit,” the Air Force Materiel Command commander said during his April 23 visit to the site. “Their wartime mission right now is shots in arms, and they are doing it and knocking it out of the park. I’m really proud of them, their professionalism and how they are reaching out to the community.”
The deployed 88 MDG contingent has been putting COVID-19 shots in arms for almost two months. Leaders say the Airmen also helped make the vaccination process more effective each day.
“It is amazing to hear that this site has the second-largest number of vaccinations given in the country,” Leingang said. “Usually in a front-line effort, people tend to think that it involves someone else other than the Medical Group. Because of this pandemic, our Medical Group is the front line of the fight.”
As people around the world continue to get vaccinated, the fight against COVID-19 goes on.
“Providing immunity against the COVID-19 virus will help us as a society get back to more normal, as well as do the regular things we would like to do,” Lyons said.
This vaccination effort has provided the opportunity for multiple agencies to partner with each other to better protect people against the virus.
“While I’m very proud of our medics and their delivery of trusted care, what has really impressed me with the team is their multiagency cooperation with so many partners involved from FEMA, the city of Detroit and the other agencies,” Lyons said. “They have done an amazing job with these partnerships and have also created a lot of improvements throughout this process to make this such a success for the city of Detroit.
AFMC has 153 Airmen deployed across the country in support of COVID-19 vaccination efforts. By establishing and maintaining partnerships, as well as the American people’s trust, the deployed airmen have taken another step towards the victory in this pandemic.
“This team here in Detroit (and) other teams across other vaccination sites have really turned the tide on the pandemic, as well as given people the confidence to get the vaccine so they can get out and socially interact,” Miller said. “We have some extraordinary people part of our organization. Each individual contributes to something bigger than themselves.”
U.S. Army North and Joint Force Land Component Command under U.S. Northern Command will continue to oversee this response operation in support of FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information regarding the different teams and community vaccination centers, refer to the FEMA playbook at www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_community-vaccination-centers_playbook_03-12-2021.pdf.