Navy Medicine Helps Local Support Efforts with Taking on COVID-19

Community-Based Vaccination Site Opens in Orange

Orange, NJ, March 15, 2021—A Community-Based Vaccination Site opens at the St. Matthew AME Church. FEMA personnel along with the Department of Defense’s Title 10 Vaccination Support Team help local residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19. FEMA is working with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments on the critical need to open vaccine centers that ensure underserved populations have access to vaccines. K.C. Wilsey/FEMA

With the way the world is today with the pandemic still at large, the Navy has taken measures to help support local efforts of vaccinating Americans in underserved communities. From the Pacific Northwest to the eastern seaboard, Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton has sent numerous staff members across the continent to aid the Department of Defense Community Vaccination Center support.

Navy Taking Action

This past year has been incredibly tough for everyone due to COVID-19. The Navy knows how big the problem is and is contributing in the diminishing of the pandemic and serving the citizens that are in need. Capt. Benjamin Schwartz, chief experience officer and pharmacist, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Erick Morcillo of Surgical Services are currently deployed as part of U.S. Northern Command. They’re working towards augmenting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to assist in whole-of-government vaccination efforts in New Jersey.


Schwartz and Morcillo are only two of over 6,000 Navy Medicine active and reserve component personnel deployed for the support of the operational COVID-19 missions. The two men departed in March with a Navy and Army Team of 23 team members from all across the nation. They have been working directly with FEMA as part of the DoD’s Title 10 Vaccination Support Team. They’ve also been working closely with:

  • The Joint Task Force Civil Support
  • New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officers
  • Local departments of health
  • AmeriCorps
  • Rutgers University nursing students
  • And other DoD staff and partners

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccinations

The team is currently providing Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations to more than 1800 people weekly in underserved communities within Orange and Newark, New Jersey.

“We are in a supporting role to FEMA and New Jersey including relevant departments of health,” said Schwartz, working out of vaccination sites such as schools and local churches.

The DoD received a request from FEMA for support in administering COVID-19 vaccine at various locations across the country in February. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved the request to augment and spread vaccinations nationwide. An order to the first contingent of more than 1,000 active-duty military personnel was assigned to support state vaccination sites. As Secretary Austin announced, DoD “must help the Federal Government move further and faster to eradicate the devastating effects of the coronavirus.”

Working for a Solution

The fatality figures of deaths due to COVID-19 are daunting. The virus has claimed more American lives than all of the previous military campaigns from World War II to the present!

“The greatest challenge to our country right now is the pandemic,” voiced Secretary Austin.

Schwartz, Morcillo, and many others on assembled joint teams are working to help eliminate the virus on a daily basis. This is taking place in approximately 17 community vaccination centers in 12 states.

Stopping the Spread

Schwartz affirms that every administered dose is helping towards halting the spread of the virus.

“Our team, along with other joint teams supporting urban underserved communities, is not only increasing the total number of people vaccinated, but is specifically increasing the percentage of people of color vaccinated,” said Schwartz. “The soft power and healing hands we project in urban underserved communities throughout our COVID-19 vaccine mission has made a difference not only in the health of the people we serve, but also a lasting positive impact in hearts and minds.”

Schwartz’s Navy Medical Service Corps background, along with his vast experience in pharmacy, has provided crucial capability in vaccine handling.

“Once daily supply of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vials are received, my expertise in pharmacy enables safe administration of the vaccines. Throughout the day, we prepare dosages for administration and ensure other members on the team appropriately prepare dosages.”

One of those members is Morcillo.

“HM3 Morcillo has been instrumental in administering Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to community members. He has also served as a translator for those who speak Spanish,” Schwartz said. He also added that all service members had made a favorable impression in providing support in areas where the presence of Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine uniforms isn’t common.

Making a Difference

“Many of the community members I have interacted with have voiced their appreciation of the service we provide. I feel positive about the work we are doing, and having the community’s support is very meaningful,” remarked Schwartz.

The Navy is putting its effort toward eliminating the virus and serving those in need. Serving the people is always top priority, and eliminating the virus is crucial during these times.

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