97 MDG Airman fights at forefront of global pandemic

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Breanna Klemm
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

According to the 2019 United States Census Bureau, the state of New York is home to more than 19 million people and is known as one of the busiest and most densely populated states in the nation.

Stationed in the heart of the state, and more than 1,500 miles from home, Senior Airman Taylor Riner, 97th Medical Group family practice medical technician, helped administer more than 179,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to members of the Brooklyn, New York, population.

In February 2021, Riner volunteered to deploy through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Brooklyn in support of the U.S. Army North’s COVID-19 response, attached to the 335th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron.

“I volunteered for this deployment because we needed someone from our clinic to support the bigger mission,” said Riner. “Although not a typical deployment, I thought this would be a once and a lifetime experience and probably something I would never be able to do again in my career.”

During this deployment, Riner explained how he and a team of 160 other medical personnel from across the Air Force helped administer more than 3,200 COVID-19 vaccines each day, to citizens ranging from 16 to 99 years old.

“A typical day would start by letting people in at around 7:45 a.m.,” said Riner. “Basically from 7:45 a.m. up until 8:30 p.m., we were vaccinating people, keeping an eye on them and making sure they didn't have any reactions.”

Riner explained how most days he would work a 13 to 14-hour shift with minimal breaks. Adjusting to the high operations tempo in Brooklyn compared to Altus was described as one of the most challenging obstacles faced.

“I think the most challenging part of this deployment is trying to stay in a good routine and adjusting to the busy schedule we were on,” said Riner. “This deployment was not your typical 7 to 8 hour shift where you're seeing a certain set of patients and you kind of know what to expect. In Brooklyn, we could get a massive influx of patients where you're not sitting down for two or more hours.”

Although challenging, Riner was not only recognized by his leadership at the 97th Medical Group but in Brooklyn as well. Riner was coined by the deployed unit commander for being one of the top 50 vaccinators in his unit, and one of the top three vaccinators for the week.

“When the request for this deployment first came down I had five qualified Airmen that could go and SrA Riner was the right pick for this job,” said Master Sgt. Jessyca Walters, the 97th Operations Medical Readiness Squadron superintendent. “Since COVID started, Riner has been our go-to Airmen for everything vaccine related, being the only family health technician, and I think this deployment was good for him. It allowed him to see the bigger picture in the COVID-19 battle.”

Although now back at Altus AFB, Riner remains “on-call” until September of 2021, where he could deploy back to Brooklyn at a moment's notice if additional support is needed.

“My favorite part of this deployment has of course been getting to see New York on my off days, but also helping other people outside of Altus,” said Riner. “This deployment showed that realistically, we're all in this together, all working toward the same goal of getting back to normal lives. I enjoyed being in the heart of it all and being able to make an impact on other people's lives, hoping we can get back to a normal way of life together.”