NHNG Airman serves on front lines of fight against COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Victoria Nelson
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

CONCORD, N.H. – Outside the former Sears automotive bays at the Steeplegate Mall, the sun sets, turning the sky bright hues of orange, pink and purple. Inside, the Airmen and Soldiers hustling around lines of cars still have two hours left before the end of their shift.

One Airman, in particular, has been accustomed to the fluid hours required of an aerospace medic during a global pandemic. Tech. Sgt. Matthew Prugger, a medic with the 157th Air Refueling Wing, has been at the forefront of pandemic relief operations since the New Hampshire National Guard was activated in March.

“In the mornings, we come in and make sure we always have a fresh pot of coffee brewing,” Prugger said with a laugh. “Because, you know, priorities.”

This was Prugger’s first week administering the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine. He said the days have been long and have called for constant attention to detail and focus.

“He is diligent,” said 2nd Lt. Stuart Burychka, a platoon leader with the 3643rd Brigade Support Battalion and the officer in charge of the Concord vaccination site. “He is always asking questions and taking the time to do things the right way.”

Each day, the Soldiers and Airmen at Concord vaccination site have provided 160 to 185 vaccines to health care workers and first responders as part of the state's three-phase vaccination plan. The number of vaccines given per day has tripled since the first day.

“We get an hour to prepare before our shift starts, then it’s pretty steady until the end of the day,” Prugger said as a new wave of cars rolled into the garage.

At the start of the pandemic, Prugger worked as the noncommissioned officer in charge of two testing sites in Lancaster and Concord. Those sites accounted for 2 percent of the total tested in the state and helped set the stage for businesses reopening after the first lockdown, he said.

“We helped get to those numbers, surpassed it and continued testing,” Prugger said. “Now vaccinating is a huge mission in itself. Hopefully, we are able to make a dent and the world can go back to some form of normalcy.”

Prugger has seen the whole cycle of the virus from a medical perspective and as an Airman serving in his local community. With each new day and fresh pot of coffee, he remembers why he joined the Guard.

“Just performing our job and giving our medical service to the state has been the most rewarding part,” Prugger said. “It’s what I signed up to do.”