NEWS | June 7, 2021

1st TSC NCO deploys to support Afghanistan exit ops after receiving 2nd COVID-19 shot

By Staff Sgt. Neil W. McCabe 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command

An Army Reserve noncommissioned officer deployed to support 1st Theater Sustainment Command's operational command post received her second Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shot June 2, making her better qualified to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Army exit operations.

The Ashtabula, Ohio native, Sgt. Nicole Hall, deployed here with the Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said she was pleased to get the chance to work as a cook.

"They've been asking for cooks to come down and help out, so I get to do my job," she said.

"Every deployment, I've been a mail clerk or I am in an admin office," Hall said. "My last deployment, I helped drive Soldiers to tower guard duty and did whatever other duties needed to be done."

Hall said her previous deployment to Afghanistan was with the 1st Engineer Battalion of the 555th Engineer Brigade from September 2012 to May 2013 at Forward Operating Base Shank.

In Hall’s case, preparation met opportunity and she was afforded the chance to hone her skills practicing her primary military occupational specialty.

"There was a requirement to help support the Special Forces in Afghanistan--they needed some cooks," said Army Reserve 1st Sgt. Stephen E. Jones II, who works with Hall at 310th ESC Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

"She was identified as one of the people to help fill that request," Jones said. Hall is one of four "Brickyard" Soldiers on this duty.

"We sat her down and told her she's going to be going to Afghanistan," he said. "I know she's been deployed to Afghanistan before, just not at this location. She's excited to go and we're proud of her."

Hall said getting her second vaccination was important not only for her own protection but for the other Soldiers deployed with her.

The sergeant joined the vaccination rodeo at Camp Arifjan’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation center, which was shut down to process the personnel for their second of two required Moderna shots.

Army Reserve Col. Belinda Coakley, who is leading Operation Med Spear for the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), the unit overseeing vaccinations inside U.S. Army Central’s area of responsibility, said the project to vaccinate civilian and military personnel is a success.

"It's absolutely thrilling and we're moving forward and getting the country, the Army, dependents, our contractors, and our DOD civilians vaccinated," she said. "It's been a success, because of the great coordination and the collaboration of all of the sister units."

One of the military medical professionals at the rodeo, Kansas National Guard Cpl. Erik Eisenman said he was tasked with filling the syringes.

"It is more about quality control if one person does it, so they can all be the same. Because I've been doing the most, it was just easier for me to fill in here," said the corporal, who volunteered while deployed here as a medic with the 130th Field Artillery Brigade.

"The biggest thing is making sure that you are getting the exact measurement and dose, as well as following safety precautions," he said. "Always keep the needles sterile using the alcohol swabs before you draw from the vial."

Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Molly Baldizone is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Troop Medical Clinic's Critical Care Unit, and the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination rodeos here.

The native of O'Fallon, Missouri, said when her unit, the Independence, Missouri-based 811th Hospital Center, replaced the Army Reserve's 228th Combat Support Hospital, one month ago, they immediately became part of the vaccination rodeos.

"This rodeo is to give the second vaccine for the Moderna after administering the first shot last month. In a couple of the weeks, we'll have another rodeo for first-timers who want to go through," Baldizone added.

"It's fun and we're going to keep going," she said. "We get to step out of the hospital for a little bit and do something different, to get my people to administer vaccines and just to be a part of the community."

Army Reserve Spc. Rikki Li, deployed here to serve at the Troop Medical Center as a licensed practical nurse with the 811th HC, said it was personally gratifying to be a part of the vaccination rodeos.

"I studied vaccines and biochemistry in the [civilian] world, so it's great being able to be a part of this and seeing it administered and seeing a lot of people getting their second dose, their first dose," she said. "Building herd immunity for the community is just something I am really glad that I could be part of."

Baldizone said she experienced that sense of community when she later saw the same people that she had earlier vaccinated.

"They recognize you at the PX, and at the chow hall, so it's been really good for us and our unit," the practical nursing specialist added.