FORT BLISS, Texas –
“No one is ever satisfied where he is” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Capt. Anna Davalos, originally from Moscow, Russia, never imagined that one day she would be an American citizen serving in the United States Army in the country of Kuwait during the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19.
“The realization that no matter what I did, I would never be able to make something of myself or achieve my dreams or, at a minimum, provide a good life for myself and my family,” said Davalos when speaking about pursuing a career in Russia.
“Economy was in ruins, the opportunities for work or business were minimal, and uncertainty was paralyzing. I felt compelled to change my life,” said Davalos, recalling her decision to leave her homeland.
Davalos, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) with the 7454th Medical Operational Readiness Unit, Central Medical Area Readiness Support Group, U.S. Army Reserve, recently returned to the U.S. after her first deployment.
Deployed in support of Spartan Shield, Davalos worked at the United States Hospital Kuwait at Camp Arifjan and Camp Buehring, providing medical care to Soldiers and U.S. contractors.
Growing up in Moscow, Russia, Davalos came to the United States in 2000 and decided to become an American citizen. However, following 9/11, the immigration policy was transformed, tightening the process of issuing visas to foreign nationals. During this time, Davalos continued her education to become a CRNA and discovered the U.S. Army Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) Recruitment Pilot Program.
Through MAVNI, foreign nationals living legally in the U.S. who spoke foreign languages and worked as health care professionals could earn citizenship through service in the Army.
“I think one of the most important things the Army teaches people is that people from different cultures can bring enrichment to units,” Davalos said. “Our cultural diversity and distinctive ways of seeing the world brings different “out of the box” creative solutions to everyday problems and situations.”
Davalos was sworn into the U.S. Army Reserve on Dec. 23, 2009, and proudly became a U.S. citizen on April 12, 2010.
“I am most grateful and proud of the day when I became a citizen, and to this day, I tell everyone that if not for the MAVNI program and the Army, I would have never reached my dreams,” Davalos said. “I want to continue to serve because I believe I make a difference in people’s lives every day, either on the battlefield or in my reserve unit, in an operating room or an intensive care unit, by utilizing my professional skills that the Army helped me to acquire.”
The history of nurses administering anesthesia began on a battlefield during World War I. Today more than 60% of all anesthetics in the U.S. are administered by CRNAs. The profession is in high demand in the civilian world and the military. CRNAs are on the list of critical wartime specialties year after year.
Since the start of the devastating global pandemic of COVID-19, CRNAs have had to utilize their skills in advanced airway techniques, ventilation management, vascular volume resuscitation, and advanced patient evaluation, among others, to care for critically ill patients. CRNAs have become an integral part of the COVID-19 response and are highly regarded and sought after by hospitals.
The U.S. Army Reserve has over 500 CRNAs, and each of them is extremely valuable to military force, especially since COVID-19 variants are spreading rapidly and nearly every state has professional nursing and medical shortages. In many instances, U.S. Army Reserve medical and nursing professionals are the last hope to an overwhelmed healthcare system since Army Reserve Medical Command has many nurses and CRNAs to deploy if needed.
Davalos gained valuable experience from her civilian job as a CRNA in the operating room and with critical care units at Brooke Army Medical Center, located at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. She was able to implement the skills and passion gained from these assignments during her deployment in Kuwait.
Davalos was on call 24/7 for any airway emergencies during her deployment. In addition, she educated individual Soldiers who were still undecided on being vaccinated and answered their questions to the full extent, thus helping the U.S. Army achieve higher vaccination rates. She mentored junior enlisted medics and flight nurses, guiding them to improve patient care and instructed classes on airway emergency procedures.
“Not only does she provide anesthesia in the military, which includes treating combat casualties, enemy combatives and the general population, but she also provides education, guidance and expertise,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Chenowith II, a CRNA with 7459th Medical Backfill and Army Medical Department Professional Management Command.
Davalos credits the United States for giving its citizens the power to make changes, have a voice and have freedoms not found in Russia.
“Americans could make a difference here,” Davalos said. “Unlike people in other countries, one can work hard and reach anything they set out to do here. That is why I am grateful for the Army’s opportunities.”
Capt. Anna Davalos will soon return home after deploying to Kuwait. She will be greeted by her spouse, two daughters and her coworkers at Brooke Army Medical Center. She will continue providing anesthesia care in the operating room and fighting the invisible enemy of COVID-19 as a Citizen Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve.