DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. – Air Force Reserve nurses from the 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron departed here last month after just a few hours’ notice to join the Department of Defense response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is being led by U.S. Northern Command.
Capt. Arielle Watson, one of those nurses, has been working in Queens Hospital in New York City to meet the need for increased emergency room staffing. She and other Air Force Reservists are an integral part of the more than 8,000 service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, including active duty and reserve component service members, in the U.S. Army North-led Joint Forces Land Component Command who have been assisting state and local governments across the continental United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon arrival in the emergency room, there were immensely high numbers of patients coming in daily, Watson said. There were patients, nurses and doctors everywhere.
Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 response, Watson said she experienced new and unexpected challenges in supporting such a large influx of patients.
“No amount of training could have prepared me for what we initially encountered,” she said. “It was unlike anything I have ever seen.”
In the last few weeks, the patient ratios have decreased and the flow has improved, said Watson.
Watson is a traditional Reservist who works as a full-time pediatric emergency department nurse in her civilian capacity. Like many other Reservists, she’s supporting the battle against COVID-19 in the hardest hit areas, away from her loved ones and civilian job.
She is one of more than 1,000 Air Force Reserve medical personnel from across the nation who have mobilized in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Most of these Airmen volunteered and reported in less than 48 hours to support.
"There was a significant need to increase staffing at the hospital which we were able to fulfill," Watson said. “As a member of the armed forces, it is my duty to aid our country and New York City.”
Watson is now part of Task Force New York/New Jersey as part of the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Northern Command serves as the global synchronizer for DoD’s Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease plans. U.S. Army North serves as their Joint Force Land Component Command in support of the national response to COVID-19 when federal military forces are employed in support of the lead federal agency
U.S. Army North continues to support the Department of Defense's COVID-19 response while remaining flexible to rapidly respond to changing requirements.