Army Reserve laboratory officer in the fight against COVID-19

By Sgt. 1st Class Michele Uitermarkt | Medical Readiness and Training Command | May 28, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

"We have an obligation to the American people to keep our Soldiers healthy in order to serve in this fight, and I am proud to have been a part of that," said Lt. Col. Maria Espiritu, an Army Reserve clinical laboratory officer who oversees COVID-19 testing at multiple laboratories in the U.S. for mobilized military medical professionals.

Espiritu mobilized from her home in Duluth, Georgia, to Joint Base San Antonio on Apr. 4, to manage clinical laboratory operations for the 807th Medical Command. Espiritu and her team of approximately 80 Soldiers from various Army Reserve units are also responsible for providing COVID-19 test kits and other medical supplies to mobilized medical professionals. Espiritu is responsible for ensuring that the lab testing is compliant with the guidelines and regulatory requirements set by multiple federal agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Army's Office of the Surgeon General.

"An important part of our mission is to provide testing for military personnel mobilized to fight the coronavirus," said Espiritu.

Espiritu is a graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology and a Masters of Public Health. Espiritu is certified as a medical technologist and a clinical laboratory scientist who lives in Duluth, Georgia. with her husband and teenage daughter. A project manager for a technology company that develops software for clinical laboratories and public health agencies, she manages projects that modernize and improve laboratory capabilities.

Espiritu is a member of the Medical Readiness and Training Command, also based at JBSA. MRTC provides advanced medical training by leading several annual field exercises, such as Global Medic, for more than 2,000 troops across all branches of the U.S. military alongside multinational allies including Canada, Germany and Britain.

More than 1,200 Army Reserve medical professionals mobilized as Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces (UAMTFs) as part of the Department of Defense's response to COVID-19, led by U.S. Northern Command.

These 85-person teams augment the civilian medical community by delivering a wide range of critical medical capabilities. Each team consists of doctors, nurses, combat medics, and respiratory therapists. The Reserve medical professionals work alongside active duty medical specialists representing all services of the military.

U.S. Army North deployed the rapid integration of medical capabilities in several locations around the country while maintaining a flexible and prompt response to the emerging needs as part of the Department of Defense's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Espiritu expects to return home in a few weeks after capturing the lessons learned from the COVID-19 Response to assist future generations of military medical professionals.

"As lab officers, we are always in the background doing our part for the military, but this pandemic has brought our small career field squarely into the forefront," said Espiritu. "It has been an honor serve my country and play a role in helping people in their time of need."

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