ULLIN — The Shawnee Community College helipad is used occasionally by medical personnel when significant medical intervention is needed quickly.

However, on Thursday, it was a military helicopter that landed on the campus in Ullin.

Maj. Gen. Richard R. Neely, adjutant general of the State of Illinois National Guard, along with several staff members, were in Ullin to do a site visit for the Southern Seven Health Department’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination effort being held on the campus.

“The support Southern Seven has received from the Illinois National Guard has been a major benefit to the residents spread across our seven counties — Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, and Union,” said Nathan Ryder, outreach coordinator for Southern Seven’s Contact Tracing Team. “When we are located so far away from our state’s government officials, getting the opportunity for our staff to meet with the commander of the Illinois National Guard and show our ongoing vaccination efforts face to face is invaluable.”

As the state’s 40th adjutant general, Neely serves as the director of the Illinois Department of Military Affairs. He is responsible for carrying out Illinois National Guard missions in supporting emergency relief efforts, including the current vaccination mission across the state. He oversees approximately 13,000 military members, 2200 full-time military/federal employees and 230 civilian state employees. As the commander of the Illinois National Guard, Neely is responsible for the training, preparation and deployment of soldiers and airmen in support of combat operations worldwide. Neely led the 2019 response to historic flooding in Illinois along with the unprecedented 2020 COVID-19 pandemic response and multiple deployments of the National Guard in response to civil unrest across the state.

During his SCC visit, Neely checked in with guard members, visited with Southern Seven medical staff, spoke with residents receiving vaccines and college leaders about the vaccination mission’s progress.

“We were honored to have Maj. Gen. Neely here today,” said Rob Betts, SCC director of communications. “We are grateful for the continued efforts to vaccinate members of our community.”

SCC is one of two mass vaccination clinics Southern Seven is operating in the region from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. While clinics are accepting walk-ins, to guarantee a vaccine dose on a given day, people can schedule themselves for a vaccine appointment using the Illinois Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Registration system online at https://covidvaccination.dph.illinois.gov.

Vaccines will be provided only to Illinois residents and/or individuals with proof of employment in Illinois. Currently, people must also fall into the 1A, 1B or 1B+ priority groups to receive a vaccine. Every Illinois resident over the age of 16-years old will become eligible to get vaccinated on April 12. For questions regarding COVID-19 or vaccine clinic locations, contact Southern Seven at 618-634-2297 or visit them on Facebook or online at www.southern7.org

Video of the helicopter transporting Neely landing on the SCC campus, along with interactions between Taylor and troops, can be viewed at https://we.tl/t-vnDSYsS3fe.

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