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NEWS | Nov. 5, 2020

San Francisco nurse reflects on participation in federal COVID-19 response in Texas

By Col. Meritt Phillips Army Reserve Medical Command

“This event in time is another testimony of the unity, altruism, and resilience that the American people are capable of especially in times of adversity,” said Capt. Allyssa Marie Montemayor. “The American people will recover from this and we will carry the knowledge and experience forward.”

An Army Reserve critical care nurse from San Francisco, Montemayor mobilized in early July 2020 with Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force - 7452 to assist DHR Health in McAllen, Texas.

More than 1,000 skilled Army Reserve medical Soldiers that have mobilized since March to provide Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montemayor was assigned to the serious infectious disease unit.

“My duty was to care to patients that suffered from respiratory failure secondary to COVID-19 that were intubated and admitted into the intensive care unit,” she explained. “My colleagues and I were there to help relieve the workload of local hospital staff.”

Montemayor, who is also a critical care nurse in her civilian career, brought to the mission experience in treating COVID-19 patients.

“We had the opportunity to build professional working relationships and to share the human experience of living through these challenging times with our fellow Soldiers and members of the community,” said Montemayor. “We also assisted with the education of public health measures and practices in coordination with local hospital leaders that made the hospital staff feel safer and more confident to provide care to patients.”

Born in the Philippines, Montemayor’s family immigrated to the United States when she was three years old and she was raised in San Francisco.

“I went to nursing school straight out of high school, because it was a vocation that called to me,” explained Montemayor. “My mother worked in a laboratory and when I would visit her at work and see the nurses and hospital staff provide care to individuals that were at their most vulnerable, it seemed like sacred work.”

Montemayor earned a Bachelors in Nursing in 2012 from Dominican University of California in San Rafael. She took a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a critical care nurse and joined the Army Reserve.

“During nursing school I worked as a nursing assistant at the Department of Veterans Affairs in San Francisco and it was a privilege to provide care to America’s heroes, inspiring me to pursue a career in Army nursing.”

Her professional interests led her to pursue a masters degree in public health, that she earned from the University of San Francisco in 2017.

Montemayor was able to utilize her public health education when she was deployed in 2018 to Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, where she served as a public health nurse leading the vaccination and medical readiness programs and participating in humanitarian healthcare missions in the rural communities of Central America.

“After my initial contract ended, I chose to extend my service (in the Army Reserve) because I am still physically able to offer my skills, knowledge, experience in nursing, and leadership to serve communities here at home and overseas,” said Montemayor. “I appreciate the training and leadership from the Army, because Soldier life has always stressed flexibility and resilience.”

Montemayor continues to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Palo Alto, and is also studying for her doctorate in nursing.

“The V.A. and its leaders have been supportive, especially when the U.S. Army activated me at short notice,” said Montemayor. “The V.A. has been helpful with the reintegration process back to civilian employment as well.”

Montemayor acknowledged the high-stress environment of treating COVID-19 patients and the importance of having a support system.

“My parents, brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, colleagues, and my significant other have all been very supportive, wherever I go with the Army. They remind me of my values,” said Montemayor. “Prayer and reflection have also helped with coping.”

“Although we live in an affluent and technologically advanced modern society, it was humbling to see that nature remains so powerful,” reflected Montemayor. “Despite the adversities resulting from the pandemic, it is inspiring and motivating to see the local leaders, citizens. and fellow Soldiers work together to provide compassionate care to communities that are battling COVID-19.