49 Wing Airmen support COVID response efforts

An Air Force Staff Sgt. stands in front of a sign reading 101,000 vaccinations for Brooklyn.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Omar Casanova, 49th Medical Group medic, poses for a photo at Medgar Evers College community vaccination site in Brooklyn, New York, March 30, 2021. Casanova deployed with two 49th Wing MDG Airmen in support of Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Defense’s mission to help increase the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. (Courtesy Photo)

Two Air Force members stands in front of a sign reading 100,000 vaccinations for Brooklyn.

(From left to right) U.S. Air Force Capt. Neil Esch, 49th Medical Group family medicine physician, and Capt. Laura Bain, 49th MDG clinical nurse, pose for a photo at Medgar Evers College community vaccination site in Brooklyn, New York, March 29, 2021. Esch and Bain, along with the rest of their 139-person team, have distributed over 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines at Medgar Evers College, a state-run, federally-operated vaccination site. (Courtesy Photo)


The COVID-19 pandemic remains a global threat, and ensuring the health and safety of our service members, Department of Defense civilians and the U.S. population by providing vaccinations has become a critical priority now more than ever.

Three Holloman Airmen assigned to the 49th Medical Group deployed to Medgar Evers College community vaccination site in Brooklyn, New York, in support of the DoD’s widespread whole-of-government COVID-19 response efforts, Feb. 18, 2021.

Capt. Neil Esch, 49th MDG family medicine physician; Staff Sgt. Omar Casanova, 49th MDG medic and Capt. Laura Bain, 49th MDG clinical nurse, joined a state-run, federally-operated vaccination site to distribute COVID vaccinations.

The team consists of approximately 65% U.S. Air Force health care professionals and approximately 35% support staff.

“Our mission is to assist the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to curb the pandemic in any way we can,” Esch said. “We’re here to speed up the distribution of vaccines.”

Currently, the site provides COVID-19 vaccine doses to both high-risk individuals and essential workers, with the guidance of the New York state eligibility requirements, and the goal to administer 3,000 doses per day. After a patient’s first dose of the vaccine, they are automatically scheduled for their second dose 21 days later.

“This is a great display of the U.S. Air Force’s humanitarian mission,” Bain said. “We have had a large amount of people who have expressed gratitude toward the Air Force presence and this joint operation of FEMA and New York state.”

According to Bain, Holloman Airmen and their team at the vaccination site have distributed more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine since their arrival in February.

“It’s really important what we’re doing right now,” Casanova said. “These folks have been through a lot, especially in the New York area. I’ve seen a patient breakdown in tears because they were overwhelmed with joy. It’s a wonderful thing we’re doing out here, and I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to get these vaccines to the people.”

Readiness, resiliency and character are some of the fundamental pillars of the 49th Wing. The efforts of Esch, Bain and Casanova reflect those pillars through their effort to provide aid to those in need and execute the whole-of-government mission to expedite vaccinations for those in need.

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