Airman volunteers to fights fires, COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mikaley Kline
  • Federal Vaccine Response

“I decided to join the Air Force since the military was kind of like a family business.”

Staff Sgt. Tristan Crosswhite, a dental assistant assigned to the 92nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, contemplated joining the Air Force for three years before deciding to take the plunge.

“My grandmother was in the Air Force and my dad wanted to go to the Air Force Academy to fly planes, but he couldn’t because of his eyesight,” she said. “My grandpa was in the Marines and my uncle is in the Army.”

This vaccination mission in St. Paul, Minnesota, marks the first deployment for Crosswhite.

“I help monitor the patients after they get their shot,” she said. “I look for anything out of the ordinary, like if they’re sweating really badly or if they kind of crunch down on themselves.”

She walks up and down the aisles keeping a sharp eye for any community members who look like they may faint.

“We deal with that a lot because when you tense up and when your adrenaline wears off you could possibly pass out,” she said. “A lot of people also deal with needle anxiety.”

She remains attentive since the Community Vaccination Center (CVC) at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul averages about 3,000 vaccinations per day.

Crosswhite, originally from Kalispell, Montana, was at her first base in Wyoming for six years.

“I got really into the community there so it kind of felt like I was leaving home again,” she said. “I helped out with the volunteer fire departments around town. I was a volunteer firefighter EMT with one of the county fire departments.”

When she wasn’t on base working, Crosswhite could be found at the fire department hanging out and training.

“I did get to help put out fires, but I helped with a lot of medical situations mostly,” she said. “We had a couple different types of fires up there ranging from wildland to house fires.”

This vaccination mission also provided Crosswhite with the opportunity to reconnect with some family members she hadn’t seen in some time.

“I have family who live here; two of my great aunts,” she added. “We were able to go out to dinner which was really nice. It was nice to catch up on things and she was even telling me stories about the last pandemic that we went through.”

For Crosswhite, helping out in the local community is one of the most rewarding parts of this mission.

“This is our country and we’re helping out the people here,” she said. “Normally deployments are overseas, but it’s nice to help out here on our home soil.”

She attributes the success of the vaccination mission here to the hard work that everyone here is doing day in and day out.

“The amount of teamwork and effort that is going into this is incredible,” she said. “The vaccinators are doing great work and they’ve got their job down. All the observers are really paying attention to the patients and catching anything that looks wrong quickly.”