NEW YORK - –
At the drop of a hat , Airmen are ready to deploy and go where they are needed, typically to a location overseas.
However, the nearly 140 Airmen assigned to the 335th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron who deployed in support of the state-led, federally-supported Medgar Evers College Community Vaccination Center in Brooklyn, left their home station to perform a mission unique to the pandemic.
“We had a two-day notice when my shop asked who wanted to deploy to Brooklyn and I didn’t hesitate because we have a lot of parents with newborns,” said Staff Sgt. Madeline Negron-Lisboa, a general purpose Airman assigned to the 335th EMDOS. “I saw my wingmen with families and young kids and didn’t want them to have to be away for too long, so I decided it was best I go on the deployment.”
Negron-Lisboa, who deployed from the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, has a personal connection to COVID-19 and the mission the 335th EMDOS Airmen are doing at Medgar Evers College. Negron-Lisboa recounted her experience when she contracted the virus in late June 2020.
“I went into my shop one day and just had the sniffles and a headache, so I asked my supervisor if I could go to sick call. As a precaution they gave me a COVID-19 test, and sure enough I tested positive,” Negron-Lisboa said. “This was scary for me because I didn’t know anyone who had experienced COVID-19, so I began to worry about the outcome of having it.”
Negron-Lisboa shares a close bond with her family, who supported her from hundreds of miles away during her illness, which she said left her with very little energy and caused her to sleep around twelve hours each day.
“When I tested positive for COVID-19, I had a real fear of what was going to happen to me, especially because I never felt exhaustion like that before and I was going through it alone,” Negron-Lisboa said. “Getting this community vaccinated means we can get back to a world without wearing masks and hopefully nobody else has to experience what I did.”
Negron-Lisboa was not comfortable with seeing her family who live in Norwich, Connecticut, until she received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“My father has cancer and suffered a stroke a few years ago and lost function on the left side of his body. He is still struggling with that today, so the last thing I want is to put him at risk and have him get COVID-19,” Negron-Lisboa said. “Being able to see my family again is one of the main reasons why I got vaccinated, because I want to go see my parents without putting them at risk.”
Shortly after arriving in Brooklyn, Negron-Lisboa received a Red Cross notification for emergency leave to go see her brother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The 335th leadership team worked swiftly to allow her to take the time to go see her brother in Connecticut.
“Mental health is by far the most important factor to accomplish our mission here, especially since this is new to all of us,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Clark, first sergeant of the 335th EMDOS. “When Staff Sergeant Negron-Lisboa came to us with her concerns, I jumped at the opportunity to allow her to take a few days to go see her family, especially since I knew it could help ease her mind.”
The days Negron-Lisboa spent with her brother resonates with her, and she says her experience is a prime example of how much the 335th EMDOS leadership take care of their team during the unprecedented deployment.
“Being here is a double-edged sword because the days are so long, but we’re here helping people get back to normal so it’s completely worth it,” Negron Lisboa said. “However, our leaders work so hard to make sure all of us are taken care of and we all appreciate them for it.”
On top of her daily operations, Negron-Lisboa, who was born in Puerto Rico, also translates for the Spanish-speaking community members who may need assistance while receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s the Airmen like Staff Sgt. Negron-Lisboa that make our mission that much better. From her drive and passion, to a positive and go-getter attitude, she is always out in front asking what more she can do,” Clark said. “It’s because of Airmen like her that we are not only accomplishing our mission here, but we’re doing it without the concern of having to teach our Airmen how to be great ambassadors, because they naturally came to us that way.”
U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued, flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.