Jake Harrer never expected that his first large-scale activation as a member of Nebraska Army National Guard would involve administering COVID-19 vaccinations.
But when he got the call in January, Harrer graciously accepted. That meant he’d temporarily step away from his position as a Sarpy County 911 dispatcher and fulfill his duties as a medic in the National Guard.
“My background as a medic was exactly what they were looking for,” Harrer said. “When we first got going, there was a lot of uncertainty and not a lot of vaccine. But we got really busy, ramped up our processes and are now to the point we’re tapering down.”
Harrer is one of three National Guard members assisting the Southeast District Health Department based in Auburn. For the past several months, he has helped prepare for and host vaccine clinics, administer vaccines and schedule appointments for residents across the district, which covers Otoe, Johnson, Nemaha, Richardson and Pawnee counties.
Harrer, who has been in the National Guard for a decade, has administered almost 2,000 vaccines as part of the mission.
“Sgt. Harrer has been an instrumental part of our distribution efforts,” said Stephanie Vinson, the Southeast District’s Emergency Response Coordinator. “His dedication and professionalism have been such a lift for our response, and we are grateful he and the rest of our National Guard team are available to help us reach more people in a shorter amount of time. Widespread vaccination is a key component to ending the pandemic as we currently know it, and we could not do this without service members like Jake who are willing and able to sacrifice time with their families and full-time jobs for the cause.”
To Sarpy County Emergency Communications Director William Muldoon, it’s no surprise that Harrer has been an asset.
A dispatcher since 2016, Harrer is on the Incident Dispatch Team and is a Certified Training Officer. Incident Dispatch Team dispatchers are on call to respond to critical incident command posts and assist during major incidents, such as ones that require the SWAT team or river rescue personnel.
As a Certified Training Officer, Harrer helps provide on-the-job training for new dispatchers.
“In a relatively short amount of time with the county, Jake has shown a lot of leadership. Jake’s National Guard service sharpens his skillset and his leadership skills, both as a citizen soldier for Nebraska and an emergency communications dispatcher for Sarpy County,” Muldoon said. “I’m proud of his service, both to our Sarpy County community and his service to greater Nebraska as he has led his team through the Guard’s pandemic mission these last six months.”
“We’re grateful for employees like Jake who take service and commitment to community to another level,” added Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly. “As a proud employer of military members, Sarpy County is lucky to have such a great person, employee and leader on our Emergency Communications staff. Our county is better because of Jake.”
Harrer has enjoyed helping the small communities in southeast Nebraska, and is looking forward to returning to his normal routine of working the night shift as a dispatcher.
“I love it,” he said of his dispatching career. “It’s a very interesting and rewarding job. It can be high energy, stressful, exciting – it’s different every day.”