As an Army Reserve nurse from Montana, Col. Melody Mount is accustomed to performing her military duty inside hospital operating rooms. Her current assignment to Operation Warp Speed is a stark contrast to that environment.
“I came here as a skeptic,” said Melody, now working from an auditorium-turned office space located in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But as soon as the first COVID-19 vaccines became available, Melody proudly circulated a picture of her daughter Kayla, a nurse working in Juneau, Alaska, who was among the first to get the shot.
“Like many people, I didn’t understand the process in the beginning,” Melody said. “Working this mission was eye opening. I have a much better understanding now, and that instilled in me the confidence in what we’re doing.”
Throughout her nursing career, Melody said she has done a little bit of everything. Her most recent position in Livingston, Montana was working in a Long Term Care Facility. While COVID-19 infections were not widespread in her location, the mitigation efforts made a lasting impression.
“What we were doing to keep people safe was a nightmare,” she said, recalling the lack of visitors, separation, isolation and the personal protective barriers. “Those measures have an enormous impact on residents, children – everyone.”
More than 3,000 miles away in a Juneau hospital, Melody’s daughter Kayla said she felt privileged to be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Intensive Care Unit nurse with a decade of critical care experience said she is not naïve enough to think her age and good health make her invincible to the virus.
“I could not be more proud and impressed by my mom. I was thinking about her as I was getting my vaccine - and what a unique experience this has been, having my mom at one end and me at another,” Kayla said. “All the hard work and logistics that went into getting the vaccine to frontline workers; it was very cool to sit there on that stool and know my mom had a hand in making this happen.”
As an Army nurse, Melody is among about 100 or so Department of Defense military and civilian personnel who are part of the Operation Warp Speed team charged with accelerating the development and delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine to the American people.
“I think it’s important for people to know that behind the headlines are people like my mom,” Kayla said. “She is a wife, a daughter, a sister and a grandmother who has dedicated her life in service to others.”
In her Operation Warp Speed role, Melody is one of 10 Department of Defense liaisons working closely with CDC regional partners to assist jurisdictions with their vaccine distribution planning. Melody is assigned to a region that includes her home state of Montana, as well as North and South Dakota, Utah, and Colorado.
The mother of three grown children, two nurses and an Army Reserve soldier, said she felt a resounding sense of pride and accomplishment when the first vaccines began moving throughout the country.
Her daughter shares that pride in her mom’s contribution.
“She never ceases to amaze me, even though I’m well acquainted with her abilities,” Kayla said of her mother. “Despite her impressive resume, which doesn't fully reflect the extent of her skillset, she is always so humble and nonchalant about her accomplishments. The Department of Defense called up their best - and I personally know they got it.”