Army Reserve nurses deploy to Northern Mariana Islands to support COVID-19 response

By Maj. Melodie Tafao | 9th Mission Support Command | May 19, 2020

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NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS —

Nurses from the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital-Pacific, headquartered at Fort Shafter Flats, Honolulu, Hawaii, deployed to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to help increase medical capacity.

These nurses, three critical care nurses and three certified registered nurse anesthetists, came together from Oahu, Idaho, Florida, and South Carolina to support the 18th Medical Command under U.S. Army Pacific, also headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“We were tasked to provide critical care assets to the people of CNMI in anticipation of COVID-19 hitting the island,” said Col. Elizabeth Tugas, officer in charge. “The goal was to get the assets in place before the island peaked with cases. The critical care nurses are anticipated to staff the COVID intensive care unit overflow currently under construction.”

As nurses in their civilian capacity, they work the front lines during this COVID pandemic in their respective communities. But as Army Reserve Soldiers, they now have answered the call to serve their nation and continue to risk their health and safety against the virus thousands of miles from home.

Col. Paz Nuanez, 1984th USAH-P commander, calls them “Big Hero 6.”

“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””.

While CNMI and FEMA are taking the lead in the COVID response and providing material support, 1984th USAH-P’s “Big Hero 6” serves in a support role to these efforts. They have recently completed orientation to the hospital’s ICU and operating rooms and have also been utilized in the community testing efforts.

Their presence and support have not gone unnoticed within the commonwealth.

“The community could not be more supportive, gracious and welcoming,” said Tugas. “We have been completely overwhelmed by the kindness of the people of Saipan.”

In addition to the “Big Hero 6,” 1984th USAH-P deployed and mobilized additional personnel in support of COVID19 response efforts. Medical planners have been attached to U.S. Army Alaska, an epidemiologist mobilized to work with Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, and additional Soldiers assigned to 1984th USAH-P have also been assisting the efforts with the Theater Support Group, Detachment Marianas.

To ensure the safety of the Soldiers, their families, and the community, Hawaii based Soldiers will be quarantined for 14 days upon return, and will be tested for SARS CoV2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Nuanez is proud of her unit and their efforts.

“I am so impressed with my team that they were able to formulate a course of action quickly that would have an impactful response to fight COVID19 in CNMI,” Nuanez said. “All of these Soldiers has chosen the medical field to care for their community and are U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers because they want to use their skills to help our nation, conserve the fighting strength and support the people of the USARPAC area of responsibility and beyond.”