Federal Vaccine Response –
“I like to tell people that I have a rap album coming out in 2024, but not really.”
One thing that Master Sgt. Donald Ennis, Jr., would say makes him unique is his ability to make people laugh and smile.
“I told one of the officers here that I was sent here because I have connections to the area since I played basketball with Prince,” he laughed. “He bought it and that was fantastic. I just feel most valuable when I’m either making someone smile or providing comic relief for people.”
As a middle child, Ennis likes attention, but only if he can control it.
“I’ve made myself a one man morale committee,” he added.
Ennis is the flight lead for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) tent at the Community Vaccination Center (CVC) at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“It’s a drive-thru tent where we have individuals who can’t normally do what the average person can do,” Ennis said. “This is helpful for those in wheelchairs or even individuals who come to get their shots, but they have small children.”
Once community members pull up to the tent, they are registered and checked in prior to receiving their vaccinations.
“We give them their shot and we have a parking lot where we have the individuals wait for 15 minutes before leaving,” he said. “If something were to happen they would honk their horn and we would render medical assistance.”
When leadership was looking for volunteers to run the ADA tent, Ennis knew this was something he wanted to take on.
“I raised my hand and I asked if it was okay if I could step up and lead the efforts out here,” Ennis said.
Ennis, who just hit 19 years of service last November, joined the Air Force because he saw the life his dad provided for him.
“I didn’t have a legitimate reason for joining since I was working jobs and I also went to college for a year,” he said. “I saw the life that my dad was able to provide for us since he was in the Army for 21 years. I saw that and figured ‘why not?’”
Ennis initially tried to find a Coast Guard recruiter.
“I could not find the Coast Guard recruiter’s office, so I stopped into the Air Force recruiter’s office,” he added. “And here I am today.”
Originally from Temple Hills, Maryland, Ennis left for basic training in Nov. 2002.
“My mother wasn’t too thrilled since it was shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “She was worried about me going to the Middle East. My dad had numerous Middle East deployments himself. I told her that this is something I have to do because I don’t want to live in your basement for the rest of my life.”
Prior to this mission, Ennis was the flight chief at the family health clinic at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, but when he returns he’ll be the flight chief if the flight medicine clinic.
This vaccination mission serves as Ennis’ third deployment.
“My first one was to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar where I did aeromedical evacuation,” he said. “I did that for about four months and flew about 27 times and moved a lot of patients around. My second deployment was the following year at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.”
Ennis recalls various memorable moments over his 19 year career.
“I was stationed at Harbor Field and had the opportunity to do medical coverage for the Miami Heat,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of the players and stand on the sidelines while they scrimmaged.”
His favorite experience, and where he found his love of teaching, was his entire time at the school of aerospace medicine.
“It was there I got to find my passion for teaching,” he said. “I wanted to be a teacher, and this was an opportunity to see what that was like. This was hands down the best job I’ve ever had in the military.”
One of the most rewarding parts of this vaccination mission for Ennis is the overwhelming amount of support from the local community.
“We’re getting a lot of smiles and ‘thank yous’ from the local community,” he said. “It’s been nothing but positivity.”
Ennis was recently nominated as Senior Non Commissioned Officer of the week for his efforts with the ADA team.
“It’s a good way to keep up the morale and let people know that their hard work is being seen,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to come here and be a part of this mission.”