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NEWS | May 1, 2020

Army Reserve chief sees COVID-19 fight during JBSA-Fort Sam Houston visit

By Sgt. John Onuoha Defense Department Support to FEMA COVID-19

Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, Chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, visited U.S. Army North to meet with the 228-1 Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force, or UAMTF, as well as Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, U.S. Army North commanding general, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston April 28.

The general came to engage with the people managing U.S. Northern Command's Joint Force Land Component Command, or JFLCC, support to the U.S. Department of Defense COVID-19 response and learn about operations in the fight against COVID-19 by the two organizations.

“This is the fight that we are in now, and we are going to win it,” Luckey said. “We are going to win it and part of that is going to be making sure that we are agile and fast to be able to respond quickly.”

As U.S. Northern Command’s JFLCC for the DOD’s COVID-19 response, U.S. Army North supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency by deploying forces to areas of interest where the medical requirements have exceeded the capacity of the local providers. The JFLCC also monitors models to anticipate the next location that would need assistance.

“As Gen. Luckey said, we were tailored for this mission. Our strength is our mobility and the cross-section of talent we bring for this specific mission,” said Lt. Col. Paul Carsen, a physician assistant with the UAMTF. “We all contribute and we train. We teach each other and talk about our experiences.”

The UAMTF team, made up of a wide compliment of the Army Reserve medical specialists, was assembled in early April and is based at Fort Sam Houston. They are currently training and staying ready to deploy if needed.

The UAMTF consists of about 85 personnel, including clinical and administrative staff, operational medicine, infectious disease, preventive medicine, nursing, respiratory therapist, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, and other medical subject matter experts.

Maj. Robert Berry, a dental specialist assigned to the UAMTF, used a sports reference to describe their enthusiasm to support the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a little bit of itchiness in the sense that, you know when you have football camp or basketball camp all summer long, you just want to play that first game,” Berry said. “That’s really what you’re training for. Our entire purpose is for us to go down and perform in the mission that we are tasked to do.”

Luckey expressed his appreciation for Soldiers’ readiness and sense of pride in serving their country at a time of need.

“You all should be very, very proud, and your family should be very proud of what you have already done,” Luckey said. “You are the absolute manifestation of RFS (rural fire service). If you ever see any pictures of me running around in my little RFS t-shirt, which I love, what it says is ‘RFS, we are all in,’ everybody is in it.”

Carsen said the UAMTF is a different mission from what the Soldiers are used to, but it is what they have trained for, and they are proud to stand ready to help communities in need.