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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2020

Army Reserve Medical Command supports COVID-19 federal response efforts

By Lt. Col. Meritt Phillips Army Reserve Medical Command

U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 7454-1, from San Antonio, Texas, joined the Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency response to COVID-19. U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Force Land Component Command, is overseeing the military operation in support of federal efforts and the state.

The 7454th is one of three U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command UAMTFs that have mobilized to support community hospitals throughout southern Texas.

Specifically created to respond in times of crisis, the 85-Soldier teams augment the civilian medical community by delivering a wide range of critical medical capabilities, including medical providers, nurses, respiratory specialists, an infectious disease specialist and behavior health professionals.

“The Army Reserve medical community is comprised of world class doctors and medical professionals equipped with critical expertise from their military and civilian medical practice experience,” stated Maj. Gen. Jonathon Woodson, the Commander of Army Reserve Medical Command, based in Pinellas Park, Florida. “The value of the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces has been proven in their earlier utilization to assist in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. They expand the medical community’s ability to care for all patients, to include COVID-19 positive patients.”

Soldiers who serve with the UAMTF-7454 come from communities across the nation.

Col. Michael Cook, a family medicine physician, is the commander of the task force.

“We are calling on Americans to take care of fellow Americans,” said Col. Michael Cook, who resides in Lynchburg, Va. “This is what we do in medicine every day; we take care of our fellow countrymen and this is just an extension of that. Where people need our help, we can help them.”

“At home we don’t have the cases like they have here,” expanded Cook. “It’s a bad feeling when you’re somewhere and you need help, and you can’t get the help. And if we can help these guys out, it will be worth it.”

In addition to his command duties, Cook is looking forward to rolling up his sleeves, “I joined Army Medicine to take care of patients. So I’m going to be right there; however, I am one of the more experienced providers and I want to share that experience in order to help out the younger Soldiers on our team.”

The desire to help others spans across the United States.

1st Lt. Maile Weigele-Wolfe, a critical care nurse from Phoenix, Ariz., shared her eagerness to start this assignment, “I just want to get to our location and start serving because that’s why I became a nurse in the first place. There are some unknowns, but nursing is nursing, patients are patients.”

Weigle-Wolfe has experience caring for COVID-19 patients from her work with the Navaho Nation in Tuba City, Ariz.

“I am glad that I have experience of working with COVID patients, so I can apply what I have learned,” said Weigele-Wolfe, who commissioned in the Army Reserve at age 42.

Sgt. 1st Class Luis Cornidez, a pharmacy technician from Tucson, Ariz. is one of the noncommissioned officers assigned to UAMTF-7454.

The pandemic has directly affected Cornidez, who serves as a deputy sheriff in Pima County Ariz. Six weeks ago, he lost his 54-year-old sister to COVID-19.

“It was really hard on the family, very stressful,” said Cornidez. “So my family backs me one hundred percent on this mobilization. We need to assist wherever we can because it’s hard to stay home and look at what’s going on without helping.”

As UAMTF-7454 received their assignments to augment medical facilities in Victoria and Corpus Christi, Cook shared some final comments.

“We know we’re going to very hard-hit areas that need help taking care of patients. We have a lot to offer. I’ve been in places where you’re desperate for help and we’re going to help them out.”