Army Reserve Soldiers support supply requirements in Texas as part of federal COVID-19 response

By Col. Meritt Phillips and Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Scott | Army Reserve Medical Command | Sept. 14, 2020

EDINBURG, Texas —

Beginning in March, more than 1,000 skilled Army Reserve medical Soldiers have deployed as part of the Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority of the Soldiers activated have been part of Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, 85-person teams of doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists, and other specialized personnel that expand the capacity of care that civilian medial facilities can offer their community.

One of the specialized personnel currently serving on UATMF-7452, assigned to assist DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas, is Maj. Ward Wagenseller.

The Poway, Calif., resident traditionally serves as a critical care nurse in his Army Reserve duties, but for this mobilization he is utilizing the additional skills he brings from his civilian employment.

Weganseller works for the San Diego County Department of Public Health, Preparedness and Response Branch as the Medical Counter Measures Coordinator. In this role he is responsible for the county’s public health emergency warehouses.

During the few days Wegenseller had to prepare for mobilization, he learned in addition to medical provider support, DHR Health was requesting assistance with supply management.

DHR was in the process of repurposing a secondary warehouse to receive and manage the additional medical items. Upon his arrival, Wegneseller assessed the situation first-hand.

Applying his experience managing a 100,000 square foot warehouse utilized in San Diego county’s response to COVID-19, Wegenseller presented DHR with options to convert the DHR warehouse into an efficient, organized repository for medical supplies.

DHR embraced his suggestions and with the efforts of their eight warehouse employees, Wegenseller set to the task to design an effective medical supply storage space to support the current and future needs of the hospital.

He also recruited assistance from other UAMTF-7452 members, who volunteered to assist during their limited time off from the hospital.

Sgt. Victoria Iberra, a medical logistician from Ocean Springs, Miss., is one of those volunteers.

“Soldiers have stepped up on their days off, realizing that supply is an integral part of our mission,” she shared. “The focus is to shift high demand items in the warehouse to the front, so we can provide for the needs of the hospital.”

“The faster we can push out supplies, the safer we will be,” she added.

Wegenseller, himself a trained medical provider, took a moment to reflect on the unique opportunity that the warehouse project has offered.

“To improve their warehouse system, that five years down the road will still help them, is to leave a lasting positive impression from the United States Army Medical Corps to the folks of the Rio Grande Valley and to DHR Health,” he explained.

In total, 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 the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Texas.

Wegenseller further commented on the success of Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, specifically designed to support those in need during the pandemic.

“It is remarkable that Army medical assets from all over the country, from all different places and from all walks of life, have moved into this facility with literally only a couple of weeks’ notice to work side-by-side with civilian healthcare workers to provide an exceptional level of care and compassion to these folks here in the Rio Grande Valley,” he said.

“The Soldiers and the clinicians have adapted to it, and together formed a cohesive team, almost instantaneously. Together, we have been doing a wonderful job, and it’s something to be proud of.”