Every day hundreds of New Jersey National Guard soldiers are participating in a unique life and death struggle of sorts. Not with a foreign enemy — with COVID-10.

Army and Air National Guard troops help run the Garden State’s six vaccination megasites.

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Col. Rob Hughes, the Joint Task Force commander for the vaccination mission who recently served as commander of Regional Command East in Kosovo, said many members of the Guard had been deployed in places like Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the Horn of Africa

“And then the pandemic started and we asked them to assist in supporting these megasites,” he said.

When troops are involved in a mission overseas sometimes you don’t get to see the direct fruits of your labor. But here they see people walk out with "a great sigh of relief," he said.

“It’s great for them to get out in their communities, for their neighbors, their family members,” he said. “You certainly see their professionalism and certainly their versatility as service members.”

Jonathan Murphy is a member of the 3rd Artillery Regiment of the Army National Guard, working at the Burlington mega site.

“Just the support of everybody around the area is wonderful,” he said. “It puts a smile on your face to know you’re sacrificing your time and your day just to get the world back and running.”

He said in addition to providing PPE, the National Guard has given soldiers at the megasites the option of getting vaccinated themselves, and he decided early on to get the shot.

“I was worried about my safety and wellbeing just because I help out my grandmother,” he said.

Hughes said most of the soldiers at five of the six sites come out of the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat team, while the Atlantic County mega site is supported by airmen for the Air National Guard.

He said the National Guard is proud to support the governor’s target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by early summer.

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