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Matthew McCoy, left, state adjutant for the Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars, stands alongside Col. David Ashley, Lt. Col. Matthew Edwards, Maj. Joanne Barrett, Capt. Regan Keenan, Staff Sgt. Jessica Godena, Staff Sgt. Nicole Mackay and Dora Vasquez-Hellner, state commander for the Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars, during an award ceremony at Camp Fogarty on Wednesday.
Matthew McCoy, left, state adjutant for the Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars, stands alongside Col. David Ashley, Lt. Col. Matthew Edwards, Maj. Joanne Barrett, Capt. Regan Keenan, Staff Sgt. Jessica Godena, Staff Sgt. Nicole Mackay and Dora Vasquez-Hellner, state commander for the Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars, during an award ceremony at Camp Fogarty on Wednesday. (Terry Rajsombath/U.S. Army )

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (Tribune News Service) — Rhode Island Army National Guard Capt. Regan Keenan never would have expected to find herself running a major state vaccination site during a global pandemic, but that's just what she did.

She oversaw the state's COVID-19 vaccination site in Cranston, from the planning stages before the vaccines were even authorized to the point where Guard members were able to vaccinate 300 people an hour.

"I feel when I look back on my military career 20 years from now, this will be one of the highlights," Keenan said in a Guard interview posted to Facebook.

Keenan was among six Rhode Island National Guard members who received awards Wednesday for their roles in the Guard's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Rhode Island.

The Guard has played an important role in the state's battle against COVID-19. It has run test sites, administered vaccinations and set up field hospitals during the pandemic.

At the peak, the Guard had just under 1,000 members activated for COVID-19 response, according to Capt. Mark A. Inzce, a Guard spokesman. The Guard has administered more than 360,000 doses, representing more than 180,000 complete vaccinations, Inzce said.

"At the height of testing, around Thanksgiving 2020, we were supporting in some capacity or other more than 200,000 tests a week across the state," Incze said. That number has dropped steadily and averaged about 30,000 per week in June, he said.

"The award recipients played integral roles in the planning process of vaccination distribution, daily operations of vaccination sites, and handling and administering the vaccine safely and expediently," the Guard said in a press release.

Keenan and the others were presented the Theodore Conrad Hascall Award for Medical Leadership by the Rhode Island Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The other recipients are Col. David Ashley, Maj. Joanne Barrett and Staff Sgt. Nicole Mackay of the Air Guard, and Lt. Col. Matthew Edwards and Staff Sgt. Jessica Godena of the Army Guard.

The award honors Guard members who have "demonstrated and sustained superior leadership" in the Guard's medical services. The award is named in honor of Major Theodore Conrad Hascall, an East Providence physician who served as a medical officer in the Rhode Island National Guard during World War I.

Godena, who oversaw Guard members administering vaccinations, noted in another interview how the operation was able to ramp up from a few vaccinations to as many as 300 an hour.

She was especially pleased when the Guard gave 1,700 shots one Saturday. "I was so proud of my medics that day," she said. "They worked so hard."

The awards were presented by Dora Vasquez-Hellner, the Commander of the Rhode Island Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Rhode Island Department of Veterans Services Director Kasim Yarn also gave the Guard members Gubernatorial Citations on behalf of Gov. Dan McKee. The ceremony was at Camp Fogarty in East Greenwich.

Keenan said, "I feel truly honored to be able to, in a pandemic, push out such a lifesaving resource to the public."

(c)2021 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)

Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at www.projo.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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