SALT LAKE CITY — Headquartered at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Army Reserve medics and nurses have mobilized across the nation to areas heavily impacted by COVID-19.
“This is not the war we expected to be in, it’s not the enemy we expected to fight, nor is it the terrain to fight on,” said Brigadier General Joseph Heck, Commanding General of the 807th Medical Command. “It’s the fight that we are in and it’s a fight that we must win.”
The 807th is the largest Medical Command in the Army Reserve with over 11,000 soldiers from 117 units over 17 states West of the Ohio River.
Over 900 soldiers have been pushed out to support the response. Some of the soldiers are part of an Operation Command Post in San Antonio, Texas that works to coordinate military medical assets in the U.S.
“This was truly a historic opportunity for the Army Reserve,” said General Heck. “We actually had to create a whole new type of medical unit.”
The new unit is called an Urban Augmentation Military Task Force, comprised of 85 personnel per team.
“It was like a jigsaw puzzle,” said General Heck to FOX 13. “We put together 10 teams with specific specialties, not all of the specialties were in each area, so we had to move people around to put people together. We had 85 task forces ready to go out the door and we did that in just under seven days.”
Currently, these UAMTFs are in Boston, New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Detroit and Chicago with more on standby awaiting deployment.
“This is an opportunity for us to show that the Army Reserve is very adaptable and agile and is ready to respond at a moment’s notice, anytime, anywhere, any place in order to execute the missions that we’ve been given,” said General Heck. Typically medical deployments would involved trauma care in combat zones, not defending the country against a pandemic. In most instances, the reserve would be given at least a 30 day notice.
“This time around we were literally calling people the day before we needed them to show up, and every one of them cleared their schedules, packed their rucksack, got on a plane, train, automobile and got to where we needed them to be, on time,” said General Heck, who mentioned they were careful not to select other ‘essential’ employees who are already working in critical care locations. “All these folks are out doing a myriad of different other jobs in the community.”
Soldiers are told to plan for a 180 day deployment, although it’s hopeful that the pandemic will subside sooner.
“The course of the last few weeks I’ve probably seen more changes over the course of two weeks than I saw over the last 30 years,” said General Heck. “Those of us back here at Fort Douglas, Utah stand and support them, and we’ll be ready to support them throughout the course of their deployment.”
The Army Reserve’s 112th birthday is on April 23rd, an ironic time to celebrate given the origin of the reserve as a small group of medical professionals, doctors and nurses.