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Freedom Wing shields Airmen against COVID-19

The 514 AMW began distributing the vaccines to facilitate a return to normal operations, improve medical readiness, and protect its members and their families.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alyssa Miller, a medical technician with the 514th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 514th Air Mobility Wing, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Tech Sgt. Andrew Travis, an electrical and environmental specialist with the 514 AMDS at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on Jan. 9, 2021. The 514 AMW began distributing the vaccines to facilitate a return to normal operations, improve medical readiness, and protect its members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Evans)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --

Just over a year after the United States declared a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak, vaccine distribution is in full swing. Under the direction of Col. Thomas Pemberton, 514th Air Mobility Wing commander, the Freedom Wing is ensuring its Airmen are included among those gaining this added protection against COVID-19.

On February 6, Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 514th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Aeromedical Staging Squadron, and Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron administered COVID-19 vaccines to fellow wing members at the McGuire Fitness Center.

“We administered the second round of doses for Airmen who received their first dose in January and also administered first doses to additional Airmen,” said Master Sgt. Constantino Lamarca.

Lamarca is the senior Air Reserve Technician with the 514th AMDS who held the role of project manager for the site where the vaccines were distributed. The personnel it takes to run these sites include a provider, medical administrators, security forces members, nurses to observe Airmen post-vaccination, and volunteers for crowd control.

“We started by giving vaccines to anyone in the wing who are considered priority health care professionals and first responders,” Lamarca said. “We also vaccinated flyers and maintenance crews involved with critical missions and deployers.”

The 514th AMW has continued to make concerted efforts to vaccinate its wing members as quickly as possible, Lamarca explained. Another 200 doses were delivered to the wing shortly after the UTA--opening up the opportunity for more Airmen in different priority tiers to get vaccinated.

“Our vaccination efforts are a testament to our wing and our leadership, starting with our wing commander, Col. Pemberton,” LAMARCA said. “The AFRC Surgeon General’s office informed us last month that we were one of the first two wings to begin vaccinating its members against COVID-19 back on January 9.”

As the country continues to work through the difficulties of the pandemic, the Freedom Wing will continue to provide the support and resources necessary to ensure its Airmen and their families are protected.

“We want to get back to normal life and operations in the military and to protect ourselves when deployed,” Lamarca said. “This is no different from any other disease like anthrax or flu we must protect ourselves against.”

While the wing has not made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, wing members are encouraged to weigh their options.

“You can volunteer to receive it now or opt out and change your mind at a later date if you desire,” Pemberton said. “You must make the best choice for you and your family”.

Medical personnel like Lamarca understand that some Airmen may have questions about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, as they received FDA approval in record time.

“If people are apprehensive or unsure about the vaccine, I want to assure everyone there is so much information out there about this vaccine and how it passed through the same hoops every other vaccine passes through,” Lamarca said.

More information regarding the wing's COVID-19 vaccinations can be found in the 514 AMW mobile app.