Colorado Springs, Colo., nurse adjusts wedding plans as she joins federal COVID response

By Col. Meritt Phillips | Army Reserve Medical Command | Sept. 8, 2020

EDINBURG, Texas —

Most brides spend the final week leading up to their wedding day making sure that all the last minute details are in place.

U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Tina M. Simpson spent the 10 days prior to her wedding readjusting plans to allow her to get married before departing to answer the nation’s call for her skills as an Army Reserve medical-surgical nurse.

“I received a call July 15th from my commander advising me I would be placed on orders to leave on July 20th,” said Simpson who hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She and her fiancĂ©, Dennis Bay, were planning a July 25th ceremony.

“We moved our date to July 18th and had a small ceremony in our barn,” she explained. “Two days later, I was on active duty.”

Simpson is serving with an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force-7452, assigned to DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas as part of the Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agencies’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in March, more than 1,000 skilled Army Reserve medical Soldiers have mobilized to provide this support.

UAMTFs are 85-person teams of doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists, and support personnel that expand the capacity of care that civilian medial facilities can offer their community.

In her civilian career, Simpson works for the U.S. Air Force Academy Clinic and she brings twelve years of prior emergency room experience to the mission.

“This is a fast-passed environment during normal times,” she said. “With the added element of self-protection, and the need for a respirator and personal protection equipment, it is challenging, you have to completely doff PPE for water, food, or even the bathroom.”

All the equipment can be intimidating for patients as well.

“Patients come in extremely sick, often with multiple issue and as you work with the patient to save their life, you find out that they have COVID-19,” she explained.

“A patient said to me, ‘Why are you wearing a gas mask?’ and his comment brought to my attention how strange we must appear.”

Born and raised in Colorado, Simpson joined the military early in life.

“I felt joining the military was my calling,” explained Simpson, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps at aged 17, completing a four-year enlistment.

After leaving active duty, she raised her daughter, and earned an Associates Degree in Nursing at Iowa Western Community College and a Bachelors Degree in Nursing from Grand View University, Des Moines, Iowa.

But she continued to feel the call to service.

“I could not shake the need to complete my military service,” said Simpson. “There is nothing that compares to putting on the uniform and helping others.”

She reentered the military by joining the Iowa National Guard in 2015, and, upon moving back to her home state of Colorado in 2017, joined the Army Reserve Medical Command’s 7450th Medical Battalion in Aurora.

“I joined the military to serve my country,” said Simpson. “This mission has been a dynamic event that has utilizes my 14 years of nursing experience to help my country on a patient by patient level.”

Simpson clearly displays an adaptive and can-do personality exemplified by modifying her wedding plans and forgoing all the details she had arranged. Now she relies on her husband, Dennis Bay, to support her with the resiliency required for her mission.

“Knowing that Tina is doing God’s work for our country during trying times gives me great joy and a sense of pride for her,” said Bay. It also saddens me that we have had to live more time apart than we have been married, but I know in the end it will make us a stronger couple and better friends.”

“The biggest contribution to my well-being is from my husband,” said Simpson. “When I have a really stressful day, I talk to him and he helps me to get back on track, and to move forward with the mission and all that it entails.”

“We talk every day and I am so thankful he is in my life and is now my husband,” she said.

U.S. Northern Command has assigned approximately 590 military medical and support personnel from the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy in support of FEMA in Texas.

“I am blessed to be working with amazing nurses and providers, making a difference in the COVID fight one patient at a time,” reflected Simpson. “At the end of the day, we can say we are utilizing our Army core values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage to leave this place in a better state than when we arrived.”