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Vaccination Mission Finishes Busy First Week

By Staff Sgt. Charles Johnston

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The New Hampshire National Guard completed its first full week of vaccination operations at 13 state locations.
 
Medical professionals such as 1st Lt. Christian McDermott, the officer in charge of the Lebanon and Littleton locations, staff each site.
 
“It’s been interesting,” said McDermott of 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Brigade. “Traffic has been the biggest systemic challenge.”
 
A traditional guardsman, McDermott is a civilian lab assistant at Lebanon’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He plans to apply medical school in the spring.
 
His team of 11 NH Army and Air guardsmen corrals about a dozen vehicles at a time through two, bumper-to-bumper lines.  They greet, verify, vaccinate, and then funnel each patient to a separate lot for a brief observation period. Clad in high-visibility vests, the soldiers and airmen dash about the lot and communicate via portable radio to maintain traffic flow.
 
This marks McDermott’s second pandemic activation. He also worked for three months at COVID-19 testing sites. He said his vaccination team has been administering between 90 and 175 vaccines per day.
“I feel like I’m doing more than the testing mission,” he said. “The vaccine mission is to prevent the disease, so it feels more meaningful. It’s a great resume builder.”
 
McDermott and Capt. Bonnie Hepler of the 157th Air Refueling Wing combine for an experienced leadership tandem. Prior to her December activation, Hepler had been working as a cardiac nurse in New York.
 
“This is the best thing ever,” Hepler said. “We’re preventing people from ever getting to that point of needing to be hospitalized, and that’s the best feeling in the world.”
 
Spc. Sean Throneberry, a unit supply specialist with 197th Field Artillery Brigade, shared her enthusiasm.
 
“I volunteered for the mission,” said Throneberry, who assists McDermott with patient observations. “I’m making sure everyone is healthy and making sure there are no adverse reactions. I love the mission.”
 
The team works at sites in both Lebanon and Littleton, alternating every other day during varied hours of operation.
 
“It’s been great,” Hepler said. “I think it’s the best way to start the new year.”