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Making a Difference
TAG at Operation Jump Start

ZALLHERR, ALBANIA - The morning sun had just cleared the mountain range when the line began to form. Village children lined up to receive something very special. From the expectant looks on their faces you would have thought it was a candy or a toy; instead it was a vaccination. New Jersey Army National Guard Medics brought 500 doses of Hepatitis A to vaccinate the local girls and boys.

“It is always great to take care of kids,” said Capt. Paul Villalon. “When you treat a child you make his life better now and in adulthood.” The mission was conducted from a small community clinic in Zallherr. Parents and children jammed into the tiny hallway and waiting room but this enthusiasm evaporated when they got into the chair.

Normal childhood instinct took over and panic set in. The Soldiers did their best to calm them and reward them with the standard American after-shot treatment – a lollipop. “It was a great team effort,” remarked Villalon. The medics exhausted their 500 doses in approximately three and a half hours.

In addition to the humanitarian mission, the medics supported the 2-113th Infantry during their mission. The medics saw some of the usual annual training injuries like sprains or eye abrasions and saw unusual ones like trench foot, on one Albania Soldier. The collection of volunteers assembled by Sgt. 1st Class Steven Cosmanic, State Combat Medic, was chosen on very specific criteria: “The medics here are the ones I would want to work on me,” said Cosmanic.

“Much of this work was not training, it’s doing the real thing…when we treated a patient we affected his life.” During that same period, an Air Guard team led by Lt. Col. Frank Casty of the 108th Medical Group with Maj. Eric Erickson, 177th Medical Group and Senior Airman Erin Fassold, 177th Logistics Readiness Squadron, taught Rapid Reaction Brigade doctors, dentists, medics and nurses U.S.and NATO compatible training.

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Volume 33 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2007 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs