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Airmen from Holloman AFB in NM go to NY to help with vaccine effort

People wait their turns to be vaccinated on March 24, 2021, inside a gymnasium at Medgar Evers College that is serving as a Community Vaccination Center in Brooklyn, New York. U.S. Airmen from across the country have been deployed to the Brooklyn site and elsewhere in support of the Department of Defense federal vaccine response operations.

ANDREW GREENWOOD/U.S. ARMY

By NICOLE MAXWELL | Alamogordo Daily News, N.M. | Published: April 17, 2021

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(Tribune News Service) — Three Airmen stationed at Holloman Air Force Base are stationed at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York to assist with COVID-19 vaccine effort.

Capt. Neil Esch serves as clinical manager, Capt. Laura Bain serves as a nurse team lead and Staff Sgt. Omar Casanova serves as a vaccinator.

The three spoke with The Alamogordo Daily News about their experiences working in the Medgar Evers College vaccination clinic in Brooklyn, New York.

"So far, it's been a pretty excellent experience," Esch said. "It's been going really well. We've had an excellent response from the community. Overall, it's been a really positive experience both for Air Force personnel but working with FEMA really closely, it's been a really great experience."

The Medgar Evers College vaccination site opened on Feb. 24 and is operated by New York State and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, with the help from military personnel from across the country.

As a vaccinator, Casanova assists the Clinic in vaccinating about 3,000 patients per day and once got to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to the same patient twice.

"This patient was a 9/11 survivor," Casanova said. "She was in the upper floors (where) she worked for a law firm. She saw... four of her coworkers perish that day. It was a big moment not only for her to survive but also made an impact on me, too because not only did she survive 9/11, we're helping her survive this pandemic, as well."

One patient Bain remembers was a woman who had left her apartment for the first time since COVID-19 came to New York was to get her vaccine. The woman was immunocompromised and was prone to illness.

"The fact that she's putting her trust in us and putting her health in our hands... to leave her apartment which she hadn't done in a year... that just says a lot about the impact that we're having here and how we can give them some hope that we can move forward from this and get back to some sort of normalcy," Bains said.

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