PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania holds a special place in U.S. Marine Corps history.
In 1775, Capt. Samuel Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines who would later go on to become the first Commandant of the Marine Corps, was directed by Congress to raise two battalions of Marines.
Tun Tavern, an infamous saloon that no longer physically stands but remains tattooed across the heart and soul of every U.S. Marine, became the first Marine Corps recruiting station looking for a “few good men.”
Nicholas then stood up the first battalion of U.S. Marines, which set sail only a month later aboard the USS Alfred before being subsequently baptized by fire, officially establishing a tradition of excellence for the service which would become the Nation’s premiere naval expeditionary force in readiness.
Now, the Marines have landed back in Philadelphia fighting the next adversary: COVID-19.
In February, the Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 22 returned to their roots in the City of Brotherly Love, serving at the state-run, federally-supported Center City Community Vaccination Center in the Pennsylvania Convention Center alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and city partners.
The vaccination center, which has been administering COVID-19 vaccines to the local community around-the-clock over the past two months, is but a small piece of the national whole-of-government effort to fight the pandemic. To date, nearly 50 community vaccination centers like the one in Philadelphia have delivered over 2.6 million vaccinations to people across the United States.
“I hope that people see what the Navy and Marine Corps can do when we’re called upon.”Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Connell, a Navy medical officer
For several Pennsylvanians on the Blue Green Team, their return to the Keystone State has been a uniquely personal mission.
“I’ve always loved Pennsylvania. It’s a pride thing. This is where I was born and raised,” said Hospitalman Josiah Johnson, a vaccinator with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment from Erie, Pennsylvania.
Johnson serves as one of many hospital corpsman vaccinators that have collectively administered over 275,000 vaccines at the federal vaccination center.
He works alongside a wide array of Navy medical officers, like Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Connell.
A critical care nurse with 2nd Medical Battalion and a Troy, Pennsylvania native, Connell graduated from Philadelphia’s own Drexel University over a decade ago and commissioned via the school’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program. He is now serving as an observation supervisor at the convention center.
“To come back now and … provide what the city needed, that’s fulfilling,” Connell said. “I hope that people see what the Navy and Marine Corps can do when we’re called upon.”
Connell works alongside Marine counterparts at the vaccination center, who serve in non-clinical support roles to assist with patient registration, processing, and answering questions about the vaccination process.