Dobbins nurses return home from COVID-19 frontlines

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Maj. Enrika Ross, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nursing OIC, greets Col. John Gillespie, 94th ASTS commander, on the flightline at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. shortly after arriving via a Dobbins C-130H3 Hercules on May 28, 2020. Ross was one of four Dobbins nurses who mobilized to New York City’s Queens Hospital, where she worked as a nurse in the medical-surgical unit as part of the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Park)

By Andrew Park, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs 

For the last couple months, thousands of medical personnel from Air Force Reserve Command have been working alongside their military and civilian counterparts in the U.S. Army North-led Joint Forces Land Component Command (JFLCC), which has been assisting state and local governments across the continental United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All four nurses who mobilized from Dobbins returned to the base on May 28, arriving via a Dobbins C-130H3 Hercules as the sun started to set over the flightline.

Maj. Enrika Ross, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nursing OIC, is one of these nurses who mobilized to New York City’s Queens Hospital, where she worked as a nurse in the medical-surgical unit.

Maj. Enrika Ross, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nursing OIC, poses for a photo outside of New York City’s Queens Hospital, where she worked as a nurse in the medical-surgical unit as part of the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last couple months, thousands of medical personnel from Air Force Reserve Command have been working alongside their military and civilian counterparts in the U.S. Army North-led Joint Forces Land Component Command. (Courtesy photo)

“At a time such as this pandemic, it is rewarding to give back,” said Ross. “I went into the medical field because my heart has always been geared toward helping to heal people.”

Reservists like Ross bring a unique skillset to the fight as they’re able to bring their combined experience from their military and civilian careers. In Ross’ case, she’s a nurse practitioner at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, when she’s not serving at Dobbins.

“I take my position as nothing but honor because I have always been honored to serve,” said Ross. “I see the walk of Jesus and Florence Nightingale who served with their hearts and soul and not in fear.”

Maj. Enrika Ross, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron nursing OIC, poses for a photo inside New York City’s Queens Hospital, where she worked as a nurse in the medical-surgical unit as part of the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last couple months, thousands of medical personnel from Air Force Reserve Command have been working alongside their military and civilian counterparts in the U.S. Army North-led Joint Forces Land Component Command. (Courtesy photo)

This courage and determination has already brought success as she was fortunate enough to see patients heal and return home to their loved ones, she said.

She also added that she successfully hurdled language barriers while providing care to the diverse population of patients at the center. Many didn’t speak English, which created some initial challenges, but Ross said she remained persistent and worked through them.

“The patient would express their needs to loved ones and the loved ones would relay the need back to me in English,” Ross said.  “It aided in better care for the patient in my opinion.”

A Dobbins C-130H3 Hercules taxis on the flightline at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on May 28, 2020. The aircraft picked up the four nurses who recently mobilized to New York City area hospitals to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. A C-17 Globemaster took the nurses from Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J. to Charleston where the C-130 picked them up for the remaining leg of the journey. The C-130 then departed from Dobbins and took the remaining nurses to Robins AFB, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Park)

Fear is a common factor to those fighting on the frontlines of any battle, and the COVID-19 frontlines are no different. Ross was aware of the risks she took in providing healthcare to patients at Queens Hospital, but her determination kept her moving forward in the face of danger.

“Yes, I’m conscientious about my health,” she said.  “But at this point, I have a higher role to achieve, so I place my fears aside and help those who need me at this time.”

She brought her passion for helping others to a cross-functional team that formed the whole-of-government response to the pandemic.

Nurses from the 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron and members of the greeting party, including Col. Craig McPike, 94th Airlift Wing commander, left, depart a C-130H3 Hercules on the flightline at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. May 28, 2020. Four nurses from Dobbins mobilized to the COVID-19 frontlines in New York City as part of the whole-of-government response to the pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Park)

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 JFLCC 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.

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