NORFOLK, Va. — With Title 10 federal active duty troops augmenting the state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, the Virginia National Guard has provided a dual-status commander to manage state and federal forces. The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a community vaccination clinic March 29, 2021, at the Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, Virginia, with active-duty Sailors assigned to the Portsmouth Naval Medical Command and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story providing the staffing for the clinic.
Brig. Gen. James Ring, the VNG Director of the Joint Staff, was appointed as the dual-status commander, and is now providing federal and state command and control and mission tasking.
“A dual-status commander is the customary assignment when Title 10 forces are employed concurrent with Title 32 forces within a specified state or U.S. territory for domestic operations,” explained Ring. “In this assignment, the DSC serves under the mission command of the Governor and Adjutant General for National Guard forces, and under the Title 10 chain of command for federal forces supporting the event or operation. For the FEMA federal vaccination mission in Virginia, the Title 10 chain of command for the DSC extends through Joint Task Force – North East to U.S. Army North to U.S. Northern Command.”
The FEMA-run vaccination clinic opened at Military Circle Mall is expected to run through May 25, 2021, with 135 Sailors providing medical, administrative and logistics support. The clinic is open to everyone ages 16 and older, Ring explained.
“All persons, age 16 and up, are eligible to receive this vaccine at no cost,” said Ring. “You do not have to be a Virginia or U.S. citizen to receive the vaccine. As this is a ‘no cost’ vaccine, medical insurance is not required.”
The clinic, which is administering the Pfizer vaccine, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and is capable of administering 3,000 shots every day. That high capacity, coupled with clinics led by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia Department of Health, and supported by VNG Soldiers and Airmen, mean more Virginians getting protected against COVID-19.
“Our focus remains supporting local communities in response to the largest global pandemic in 100 years,” said Ring. “For the last year, the U.S. alone has lost over 567,000 persons to COVID-19 with over 31.4 million cases reported. These numbers increase in effect across the globe.
“Our communities and all citizens are tired of the effects of this pandemic and the receipt of COVID vaccines are an important mitigating step to end this pandemic in the U.S. and in all countries. The good news is vaccines are becoming readily available to our states and communities. The FEMA site at Military Circle Mall has plenty of appointments available for anyone who has not received a vaccine or who requires their second Pfizer shot.”
While active-duty Sailors are providing the manpower for the CVC, one the VNG’s mobile vaccination teams recently helped support a satellite clinic in conjunction with FEMA, VDH and VDEM. The one-day, walk-up clinic was held in an under-served Norfolk neighborhood at the STEM Academy at Campostella. There, VNG assets helped administer vaccines and provided administrative and logistical support.
Taking the lead on such an important mission and the opportunity to coordinate and lead state and federal efforts means a great deal to Ring.
“As the dual-status commander for Virginia supporting COVID response operations, it is a privilege to work with federal, state and local partners in our whole of government COVID response,” said Ring.
To date, the Virginia National Guard has provided administrative and logistics support to vaccine clinics resulting in more than 308,000 shots administered. VNG mobile vaccination teams have administered an additional 20,000 shots. In addition to the vaccine support, VNG Soldiers and Airman have conducted more than 177,000 COVID-19 test sample collections, and have conducted thousands of N95 respirator mask fit testings and trainings.
Missions from April though July 2020 included providing support to food banks across the state, helping distribute nearly 1,350,000 pounds of food. VNG personnel also provided more than 51,000 hours in planning augmentation to VDEM.
Localities looking for testing and training support should contact VDH directly for scheduling.