Army Reserve nurse deploys to Saipan in support of COVID-19 response

By Maj. Melodie Tafao | 9th Mission Support Command | July 2, 2020

NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS —

Maj. James F. Schmidt, a certified nurse anesthetist, was one of six nurses assigned to the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital – Pacific, 9th Mission Support Command, that deployed to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to provide medical expertise in support of COVID-19 response efforts.

Schmidt is a staff nurse anesthetist for the 1984th USAH-P, Detachment 2, in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. “I am a Soldier,” said Schmidt. “I am happy to serve wherever you need me.”

He is a resident of Greenville, South Carolina, and works as a full-time nurse anesthetist at Prisma Healthcare Corporation where he cares for adult patients in a variety of surgical specialties. But when the call came to serve his nation, Schmidt did not hesitate.

“Maj. Schmidt was a perfect choice for the job to support FEMA's COVID response in CNMI because his civilian job had cross-trained him in the Intensive Care Unit to support where ever the need was,” said Col. Paz Nuanez, 1984th USAH-P commander.

“As a nurse anesthetist, he had extensive experience in managing mechanically ventilated patients and with SARS-COV-2 causing severe respiratory failure. Maj. Schmidt was and is an excellent choice to support.”

During the mobilization, Schmidt found himself 7,850 miles away from South Carolina in Saipan, an island in the Northern Mariana Islands. He also worked as a critical care nurse in the ICU at Saipan’s hospital, Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation and performed other COVID-19 related responsibilities as needed such as community testing for COVID-19, screening incoming residents and visitors to CNMI at the Pacific Island Club and monitored COVID-19 positive guests at Kanoa Alternate Care Facility.

“Our integration into the CHCC staff was seamless and we were welcomed with open arms,” Schmidt said. “Our credentials and privileges were immediately approved, and we were able to get right to work.”

Schmidt, along with the five additional nurses from the 1984th USAH-P, were called “Big Hero Six” by 1984th USAH-P commander, Col. Paz Nuanez.

“I called all six of them personally,” Nuanez explains. “And without hesitation, they all volunteered to mobilize for a quick COVID Response and place themselves in harm’s way to help the people of CNMI, and that is why I called them my “Big Hero 6””.

Their dedication, work and expertise resulted in mission accomplishment and a grateful community.

“The people of Saipan were most gracious and appreciative,” Schmidt said. “Every single interaction with patients, their families, and the community has been nothing but positive.”

“Our mission was an overall success,” Schmidt adds. “Due to the rapid and proactive response to the COVID-19 situation by the governor’s COVID Task Force, the government of CNMI, CHCC and the community’s participation in mitigating measures and compliance with CDC guidelines, we avoided a spike in inpatient cases.”

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