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NEWS | Sept. 29, 2020

Army Reserve medic from San Francisco reflects on federal COVID-19 response mobilization

By Courtesy Story Army Reserve Medical Command

“Being here has shown me the best in humanity and I am proud to have been a part of this Task Force.”

Army Reserve Spc. Okan Pekgil sharing his experience serving with an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force.

A combat medic, Pekgil was part of a team of 85 doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists, and ancillary personnel mobilized to South Texas. The unit was part of the Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assigned to assist DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas, the team spent several weeks expanding the capacity of care of the Rio Grande Valley facility.

“This was my first time working in a COVID-19 environment and the first shift had me on edge,” shared Pekgil. “But after the first shift, everything sort of fell into place. I realized I was meant to be here and overcame any worry I had about being in the thick of things.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, this was Pekgil’s first mobilization.

“Working with such ill people was emotionally challenging but I took solace in the fact that we were helping them heal and providing comfort,” shared Pekgil. “They knew they were not alone in their time of need.”

He enlisted in 2019 at the age of 31.

“I joined the Army to be a part of something bigger than myself,” explained Pekgil. “I feel I joined at the right time in my life, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Pekgil is a biology major at San Francisco State University when not serving in America’s Army Reserve.

“I chose the Reserve in order to finish my undergraduate degree and attend graduate school while I care for my mother,” he explained. “Being a medic is a wonderful way to care for and protect people I work with and fellow citizens.”

Promoted to the rank of specialist on the mobilization, Pekgil explained that his family is very supportive of his service.

“I am the son of Turkish immigrants, and besides my mother, the rest of my family is in Turkey,” stated Pekgil, sharing that his father is now deceased. “They are all very proud of me and feel that I have made a great choice by joining the U.S. Army.”

As he returns from Texas, Pekgil shared a final thought as he prepares to catch up on his studies in order to make his December graduation.

“It was the honor of a lifetime to work alongside such brave and hard-working people. I have learned so much about medicine and appreciate how much I have grown since joining. I am looking forward to the road ahead.”