By Capt. Sarah Knowlton and Capt. Sherrain Reber
807th Medical Command (Deployment Support)
When Maj. Laura Davis, a family nurse practitioner, joined the military, she wanted to serve her country, carrying on a legacy of military service. Her grandfather and two uncles served during World War II in the U.S. Army. Her father and another uncle served in the U.S. Navy.
After returning from an overseas deployment to Kuwait in May 2019, she did not expect to be called to serve again quite so soon and so close to home.
The alert came with less than 72 hours to muster. "My unit was put on alert, and I was assigned to the first of five teams," said Davis.
Davis, a 21-year Army veteran, spent several months fighting the novel coronavirus in the U.S. as part of an Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF). A UAMTF is a brand-new construct created to support FEMA in the whole-of-government response effort in the fight against COVID-19.
UAMTF 452-1, primarily comprised of medical personnel and support staff from the 452nd Combat Support Hospital, headquartered in Milwaukee, departed April 7, 2020, for Edison, New Jersey, to provide relief and supplemental support to local medical personnel by staffing a Field Hospital.
At the time of 452-1's arrival, New Jersey had more than 44,000 cases of COVID-19.
"The first day in the local hospital was eye-opening as to exactly why we were there; they needed our help," said Davis. "This virus is real, and not everyone has the same experience from it; some have very severe complications - and that is why it is so important to slow the spread."
Initially, Davis found herself at the N.J. Exposition Center, but ended up being assigned to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, an acute care hospital.
"It is an experience that is hard to put into words. It has been sad at times seeing and treating the effects of this virus on individuals and families," said Davis. "Still, it has been joyful at times, discharging patients to be reunited with their families after their fight and recovery from COVID-19."
When asked about how she felt about her service during the pandemic, Davis said, "My knowledge and passion for caring for patients and soldiers is how I can best serve my country; it has been an honor to serve the American people and my country at a time of great need, on our own soil, and as part of a first-ever team."
"Also, I really love mentoring and teaching the medics and LPNs and learning from the other healthcare providers," said Davis. "We all have such differing experience, knowledge, and specialties and make the best team!"
"It was a pleasure working with Laura and her unit during one of the worst pandemics of our times," said Dr. Sayed Hassan, an internal medicine specialist with the John F. Kennedy Medical Center. "We were grateful and honored to have our fine men and women in uniform helping us out in those tough times - like they have been doing all their lives."
Noting the professional, courteous, and friendly attitudes of the Army Reserve medical personnel, Hassan said, "I sincerely hope to have the opportunity to work with them in any capacity in the future."
Currently assigned to the 452nd Combat Support Hospital, Davis completed her bachelor's at Carroll College, Columbia, College of Nursing. She completed her post-graduate medical training at Concordia University.
Reflecting, Davis observed that the most valuable lesson learned from the experience was not to take anything for granted.
Growing up in Rockford, Illinois, Davis now resides in Milwaukee with her husband and four children.
"Enjoy every moment with your loved ones; life is precious," said Davis.
"It's been a great and humbling experience," said Davis, "… one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my Army career."