Minn. Unit Assists Virus Vaccination Program
2nd Lt. Joseph Calandra Jr
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
Fourteen members of the Minnesota Wing’s Southeast Composite Squadron helped ensure orderly administration of 7,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester on five Sundays starting March 7.
The mission began after Rochester’s emergency operations director, Ken Jones, reached out to the Minnesota Wing chief of staff, Maj. Othelmo da Silva, who works in the city and who formerly commanded the Southeast squadron. He passed the request on to his unit command successor, Capt. Tony Knauer.
The unit’s public affairs officer, 2nd Lt. Luke Prudoehl, led the five-Sunday mission. Nine cadets and five senior members totaled 126 volunteer hours, mostly handling logistics and traffic control, directing people to vaccine administration points.
Prudoehl said the mission benefitted the members as much as it did the Rochester community. Before the mission, the squadron had been meeting online – “not quite been the same as meeting in person,” he said.
Prudoehl said the mission enabled the participants to:
- Experience the joy of working together face-to-face for a good cause,
- Build lasting relationships with a vital nearby organization unit, and
- Promote Civil Air Patrol’s mission, programs and core values to potential members.
The work left the cadets and senior members smiling, even under their masks.
"Throughout the pandemic many have felt helpless, and the world has been turned upside down,” said Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Mckenzie Strenke. “It’s hard to imagine what things were like before and what they will be like after, but with new vaccinations being produced, we are slowly finding our new normal, she said.
“This experience was unlike any other that I have been a part of. The day starts fast and ends slow, but we are always helping someone, and that was my biggest takeaway. There is not a single moment throughout Sunday where I would rather be doing something else, because we are doing something to help improve the community.
“It has been such a rewarding experience, and I can’t wait to help again," Strenke added.