NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For the past six weeks, 85 reservists from the 332nd Medical Brigade were deployed to New Jersey which was one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.
“We’re used to wearing body armor and helmets. The new armor was N-95 masks, a face shield and a gown. I told them, I didn’t want them going into war, into combat, without the appropriate armor,” said Colonel Jerry Tolbert the Unit Commander for the 332nd Brigade which is one of the largest medical brigades in the Army Reserve. It’s comprised of 1,800 hundred personnel and headquartered on White Bridge Road in Nashville.
It’s been a difficult assignment for the team who was on a mission to help relieve over-worked staff in the virus hot spot.
“As nurses and physicians,” Col. Tolbert said, “We see a lot of bad things. Certainly not in this volume. One of the first things they had to do when they got there was help the hospital staff move 60 bodies.”
When the team received word their expertise was needed, the medical task force wasted no time.
“These soldiers were working on their jobs on Friday, and the following Friday were on their way to Jersey to provide support,” explained Col. Tolbert.
Activating their status, and sending them on such an unsure mission, weighed on him.
“I have a hospital in Kuwait right now, 250 soldiers, of course I worry about them. But, of these 85 who went to N.J., I thought there was a higher risk of them getting killed, or dying, than those in Kuwait,” admitted Tolbert.
Thankfully, his men and women on the front line stayed safe.
“Not a single one of them, so far, has tested positive. We’ve had a few scares, but they’ve tested negative,” Col. Tolbert said.
Now, he’s focused on getting them mental health support as they reintegrate.
“Mental health professionals will be checking in on them everyday for the next couple of weeks because it is very difficult to come out of that situation and now you’re just back home, and here we are,” Tolbert said.
True heroes, headed home, with a grateful nation supporting them. They will be tested, and quarantined until test results are in. If negative, they will be allowed a board a plane to head home.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.