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Medics support Albanian humanitarian mission

Master Sgt. James Welch immunizes a girl as Albanian nurses provide assistance in February in Albania. Sergeant Welch, along with four other 109th Airlift Wing medics from the Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, administered 1,000 Hepatitis A shots during a humanitarian mission with the New Jersey National Guard. (Courtesy photo)

Master Sgt. James Welch immunizes a girl as Albanian nurses provide assistance in February in Albania. Sergeant Welch, along with four other 109th Airlift Wing medics from the Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, administered 1,000 Hepatitis A shots during a humanitarian mission with the New Jersey National Guard. (Courtesy photo)

Master Sgt. David Morrison administers the Hepatitis A shot to an Albanian boy in February in Albania. Sergeant Morrison, along with four other 109th Airlift Wing medics from the Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, administered 1,000 Hepatitis A shots during a humanitarian mission with the New Jersey National Guard. (Courtesy photo)

Master Sgt. David Morrison administers the Hepatitis A shot to an Albanian boy in February in Albania. Sergeant Morrison, along with four other 109th Airlift Wing medics from the Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, administered 1,000 Hepatitis A shots during a humanitarian mission with the New Jersey National Guard. (Courtesy photo)

Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Sweet-McNeil visits with children in February in Albania. Sergeant Sweet-McNeil, along with four other 109th Airlift Wing medics from the Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, administered 1,000 Hepatitis A shots during a humanitarian mission with the New Jersey National Guard. (Courtesy photo)

Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Sweet-McNeil visits with children in February in Albania. Sergeant Sweet-McNeil, along with four other 109th Airlift Wing medics from the Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, administered 1,000 Hepatitis A shots during a humanitarian mission with the New Jersey National Guard. (Courtesy photo)

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- In February, the New Jersey National Guard turned to the 109th Airlift Wing for some help. They were going to Albania to administer the Hepatitis A vaccine to 1,000 children and needed Air National Guard support. Five medics here jumped at the chance to support this humanitarian mission.

Through New Jersey's State Partnership Agreement Program agreement with the country, the National Guard agreed to send medics to the area for about a week. Three Army medics joined the 109th Airmen.

"This is an excellent opportunity for both the 109th Medical/Dental Group and the 139th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron to work together and do what we do best," said Master Sgt. Jim Welsh in a press release, one of the medics here participating in the mission.

Once there, the medics got right to work. In two days, they vaccinated 1,000 children in two separate areas of the country. The teamwork with the Army, the local nurses and the Albanian army proved to be critical.

While the Albanian army provided security and helped translate, local nurses helped hold the kids while medics gave them their shots. The nurses were also able to translate for the kids and the medics.

"It was a great team effort," Sergeant Welch said.

"We now have a tighter relationship with the New Jersey soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Maureen Moffet. "(During a joint mission like this) you knock down the stereotypes of Army, Air Force and just join up together to provide the support needed."

Both Airmen said the opportunity was something they would jump at again, and encouraged other Airmen to do the same.

"It was a good opportunity and something new," Sergeant Welch said. "It was a real good humanitarian mission."

"It was definitely rewarding for everybody who went," Sergeant Moffet said. "It was a good time, even working with the nurses, and the Albanian military was great. Morale was awesome."

Sergeant Welch said the Albanians really appreciated what was done for them.

"Everybody seems to think we as Americans are there to take over a country, but we're not, we're there to help," he said. "And a lot of countries out there want us there to help because they know we're going to give them medical attention, food, clothing, whatever we can. So that's why it's important for these partnerships, so we can be out there around the world."

"I would hope that God forbid something terrible happened to our country, there would be people, medics like us, who would be willing to come to the country and help our children. You just never know," Sergeant Moffett said.

Both Airmen said they realized a lot in America is taken for granted, including taking your kids to the doctor to get their shots.

"We can bring our kids to get shots, it's just there," he said. "Over there, it's not. Parents fight to get their kids there because they want to get them vaccinated. They don't have that medication there."

Having a 6-month-old, Sergeant Welch said he couldn't imagine being in that situation.

"You just take things for granted," Sergeant Moffet said.

Other medics from here who participated in the mission were Master Sgt. David Morrison, Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Micahel and Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Sweet-McNeil.

"The medical professionals from the 109th Airlift Wing have served their country and the Air National Guard in all corners of the world," said Col. Anthony German, 109th AW commander, in a press release. "We are proud of the work that they do and the skill sets that they bring to this unique mission."