SALT LAKE CITY — A major mobilization involving hundreds of US Army Reserve medics and nurses is underway to send troops to some of the regions of the country most affected by the novel coronavirus.
Those efforts are headquartered at Fort Douglas in Utah.
Officials with the Army Reserve said this is an operation never before seen. They are taking reserves trained to help injured troops in war zones, and sending them to fight on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We call it #KillTheVirus, or Fight COVID-19,” said Brigadier General Joseph Heck of the 807th Medical Command.
Hundreds of troops from the 807th are being deployed.
“The beginning to the soldiers creed is, ‘I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values,’ and that is what we are doing across the country right now,” General Heck said.
The new units have been given the name Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, or UAMTF.
“This is a totally different mission than has ever existed before. We call it a non-doctrinal mission,” he said.
The force includes a total of 1,200 soldiers from two units. More than 900 of the soldiers come from the 807th Medical Command, the largest medical unit in the Army Reserve. This includes 100 soldiers being sent to provide leadership support at US Army North in Texas.
The rest form part of 15 medical teams, UAMTFs, each with about 85 personnel.
The teams include medical providers like infectious disease and respiratory specialists, physician assistants, nurses, medics and more.
“Normally, we get a 30-day notice if we are going to mobilize. In this instance, with no notice, we made phone calls and these individuals cleared their schedules, packed their rucksacks and reported, in some cases less than 24 hours,” said Heck.
They pulled medical professionals from areas where they were not already fighting the spread of coronavirus.
The task forces are being sent primarily to the east coast.
“One is moved out to Stamford, Connecticut, providing healthcare support there, and Edison, New Jersey. We have two on standby, one to Detroit, Michigan, (and) one to New York City,” Heck said.
The Army Reserve will celebrate its 112th birthday on April 23. It seems especially fitting to note that they started off as small handful of doctors and nurses in 1908. They were tasked with helping troops in war zones, a mission that carries through today.
“Right now, as we get ready to celebrate the Army Reserve’s birthday, it’s Army Reserve medicine that is leading the way,” said Heck.
General Heck said the Army Reserve medics that make up the 807th come from 17 states west of the Mississippi River. They have been called for 180 days, but that could change. They’re also prepared to deploy more troops if needed in the coming weeks.