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Medics provide humanitarian support in Albania

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. (AFPN) -- Five Airmen from Stratton Air National Guard Base joined three New Jersey National Guard members on a humanitarian mission to administer the Hepatitis A vaccine to
1,000 children in February in Albania.

Through New Jersey's State Partnership Agreement Program with Albania, the National Guard agreed to send three Army medics and the Airmen of the 109th Airlift Wing to Albania for about a week.

"This is an excellent opportunity for both the 109th Medical and Dental Group and the 139th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron to work together and do what we do best," said Master Sgt. Jim Welsh, one of the medics who participated 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 children while medics gave them their shots. The nurses were also able to translate for the children and the medics.

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

"We now have a tighter relationship the New Jersey Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Maureen Moffet of the 109th AW. During a joint mission like this, "you just join up together to provide the support needed. It was definitely rewarding for everybody who went. It was a good time. Working with the nurses, and the Albanian military was great. Morale was awesome."

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

"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 and whatever we can. So that's why it's important for these partnerships, so we can be out there around the world."