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Arizona Guard, Gila River Indian Community Partner for Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Event

March 3, 2021 | BY Army Staff Sgt. Richard Hoppe

The Arizona National Guard partnered with the Gila River Indian Community and several community organizations during a large-scale, drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix on Feb. 20. During the event, more than 600 tribal members were vaccinated, providing much needed relief to the community. 

A Native American community member receives a vaccination.
Vaccine Distribution
A Gila River Health Care worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination to a Gila River Indian Community member during a community vaccination event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Feb. 20, 2021. Several GRIC organizations partnered together with the Arizona National Guard to provide more than 600 COVID-19 vaccinations to the GRIC community .
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Richard Hoppe
VIRIN: 200221-A-WK979-098

"This disease has no border. It comes for any race, color or religion," said Gila River Indian Community Lt. Gov. Monica Antone. "So to see the response of a COVID-19 effort, like this, with two communities that work together … it means a lot."

More than 40 guardsmen with Task Forces Medical and Logistics and the 996th Area Support Medical Company answered the call by serving in various roles during the event. They helped with registration support, logistics support, vaccination administration, traffic control and various other joint cooperation efforts - making this the first time that a drill status unit like the 996th has joined forces with an Arizona National Guard COVID-19 task force.

"This is a good foot in the community, in showing our presence in the community and actually helping the community with such a virus and mass efforts of providing vaccinations," said Army Maj. Robert Rodriguez, a physician assistant with the 996th Area Support Medical Company.

Cars line up for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Vaccine Center
Gila River Indian Community members line up at drive-thru tents to register for COVID-19 vaccinations during a vaccination event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Feb. 20, 2021. The pre-registration station was one of four stations staffed by Gila River Emergency Management Services, Gila River Health Care workers, Indian Health Services, GRIC volunteers and Arizona National Guard soldiers that worked together to vaccinate more than 600 community members.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Richard Hoppe
VIRIN: 200221-A-WK979-172C

The event marks another partnership in the long history between the Arizona National Guard and Gila River Indian Community members, who were part of the first National Guard that stood up in the mid-1800s.

The community praised everyone involved for their help. They hope the mass vaccination event will provide much needed pandemic relief to their community and serve as a learning experience for other organizations looking to host similar events, helping to remind everyone that we are all in this together.

(Army Staff Sgt. Richard Hoppe is assigned to 123rd Mobile Detachment.)