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    Unity in Purpose, More than 500k civilian vaccinations in +42 counties across California.

    Unity in Purpose

    Photo By Master Sgt. Salli Sablan | Cal Guard Regional Medical Support Team leaders, soldiers and airmen pose with...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Salli Sablan 

    California National Guard Primary   

    DATELINE, Calif.— “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships,” Michael Jordan, a former professional basketball player once said. There is no better quote to describe the mentality and dedication Cal Guard’s Joint Task Force 749 integrated in working with communities across California to vaccinate the population against COVID-19.

    “The partnership with county health services and the Cal Guard allowed us to reach our goal of vaccinating 1 million residents two months early,” said Jon Gioia, a supervisor and member of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

    During the end of mission ceremony, Gioia went on to thank front line public health workers, Airmen and Soldiers. “They volunteer to serve their country and state, leaving jobs, family and friends to serve our community during the most challenging time in our lives.”

    Sandy Wedgeworth, Director of Public Health at Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services said the addition of the service members to their operation allowed them to “exponentially expand how many people we could vaccinate at our events. This meant that we got through our different tiers- seniors, education, food workers- very quickly.”

    Medics helped vaccinate international seafarers on ships coming into the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The partnership was an opportunity to not only ensure supply chains were not disrupted by the pandemic, but also spread humanitarian efforts internationally, explained Wedgeworth.

    JTF 749 leaders have attended many of these kinds of ceremonies since vaccination needs waned in the past few months. The JTF oversaw collecting, testing, securing and vaccinating in the fight against COVID-19. These teams supported over 42 California county public health departments and have well passed 500k civilian vaccinations.

    “We take a lot of pride in being the vaccination force for California,” said U.S. Army Maj. Ian McNear, JTF749 Deputy Commander. “We are the only California Military Department element that does actual vaccinations; that is shots in arms.”

    The next mission, perhaps the last for this JTF, provides smaller, mobile units maneuvering with bilingual medical team members, in Northern and Southern California. McNear predicts the vaccination demand will continue to reduce.

    “That’s almost a good problem to have because it means almost everyone who wants one has been vaccinated and is able to protect their family, friends and themselves against the virus,” said McNear. “I don’t view that as a point of concern, but as a validation and sign of success.”

    By the end of the summer or early fall, JTF leaders expect civilian partners in the county health departments or contracting providers to fully take over the task. Through this mission, the soldiers and airmen had a higher level of contact with civilian agencies and the public than previous experiences.

    “I think the average state citizen probably doesn’t realize all the amazing work that the Cal Guard is capable of doing for our communities. Most people probably wouldn’t associate them with these humanitarian efforts,” said Wedgeworth. “Yet the Cal Guard is such an amazing resource for our state.”

    Wedgeworth spoke about early leadership conversations and possible public apprehensions working with Soldiers and airmen. Instead of creating a concern, “the public embraced the Cal Guard from the onset,” she said. “There was a feeling of trust observed from our community towards the Cal Guard and it was very nice to see she said.”

    “My hope is that this experience has spread awareness among the public as far as what the military does, how we support civil authorities, civilian government and what we bring to support civilian objectives,” said McNear.

    “I was most surprised by the flexibility of the Cal Guard,” said Wedgeworth. “They came in with such a great attitude and were willing to adjust to our needs. The Cal Guard have contributed not only manpower but also provided creative ideas to help us reach our goals,” said Wedgeworth. “It was impressive to see them go wherever they were needed.”

    Across the state, county public health utilized service members at mass sites like Oakland, local community parks, and even the Long Beach Aquarium.

    Cal Guard’s ability to offer pliable teams able to surge where needed and integrate well with civilian organizations and the public was an integral accomplishment said McNear.

    “Communicating with civilian organizations start with figuring out what we have in common rather than focusing on differences,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Philip Thomas, JTF 749 Commander.

    “We have a lot of skills that translate into what they needed and vice versa. We formed a strong team because of this. Ultimately when there is a task, mission or goal, it breaks down to similar tasks that we perform to fill a void.”



    Date Taken: 06.25.2021
    Date Posted: 07.01.2021 11:44
    Story ID: 400158
    Location: SACRAMENTO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 126
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