RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– Among the many helpers you’ll spot at vaccine clinics are soldiers and airmen with the North Carolina National Guard.
“It’s very fulfilling for the soldiers,” said Col. Brent A. Orr, director for joint operations for the North Carolina National Guard.
State leaders asked for their help with vaccines about two weeks ago. Now more than 250 soldiers are dispersed across the state. They go where they’re requested.
“I think once they got out there and the news spread, the county emergency managers really got on board and started requesting those resources,” said Orr.
They have medics that can administer shots, personnel that can help with data and uploading information, and people who help answer questions and direct traffic.
“We still have a little more to give and I think we’ll grow a little bit more as time goes on, but right now, I think we’re having a very direct and positive impact in communities,” said Orr.
They’re currently in more than 15 cities, including Raleigh, Durham and Fayetteville.
“The teams are mobile. They move around.”
About 11,300 people are in the National Guard in North Carolina, so about 2 percent is currently helping with vaccine efforts.
They’re also working to get themselves vaccinated.
“So that’s kind of been the priority in tandem of getting the citizens vaccinated as well.
“About 15 percent of them have been vaccinated so far. They don’t take vaccines from the civilian population, and have their own supply.
In recent weeks, NCNG’s also sent members to help provide security at the state’s and country’s Capitols.
“It’s been very busy. The soldiers and airmen have been hustling,” said Orr.
They’ve also had soldiers helping at testing sites, food banks and with other COVID-19 efforts in North Carolina for about a year.
“It is truly unprecedented for the North Carolina National Guard and I’m amazed at the level of morale of the soldiers and airmen when I go out to visit them.”
Orr said helping with vaccines is a 90-day mission, but if it remains federally funded, they’ll ask for more orders until the job is complete.
“The bottom line is they all are grateful to do the mission and it really gives them purpose,” he said.