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    Navy Reserve Sailor leads New York National Guard Team in COVID response

    Sailor leads National Guard team in COVID response

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Sean Madden | Navy Reserve Master Chief David Schwartz, who also serves as a member of the New York...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Avery Schneider 

    New York National Guard

    Master Chief David Schwartz has worn many hats.

    The Lakeview, New York resident is a husband, father, critical care nurse, U.S. Navy Reserve corpsman, and member of New York’s Naval Militia. Now, after serving 60 days in New York’s COVID-19 response, he can add National Guard team leader to the list.

    As a member of the New York Naval Militia, Schwartz volunteers to serve on state active duty when called by the governor.

    With a force of about 2,800 – most of whom also serve in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Reserve – Naval Militia members put the skills they’ve learned to work for New York State residents.

    The Militia is part of New York’s Military forces, which also includes the New York Army and Air National Guard.

    Schwartz’s mission with the New York National Guard began in mid-April 2020.

    He was assigned to a task force commanded by the New York Army National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade. A day later, he was introduced to his team of 12 enlisted medics and one officer – all Army Guard.

    The team was tasked to create a mobile medical unit based out of the historic Fifth Avenue Armory in Harlem. Their job was to provide medical care to the more than 600 troops the brigade had on duty.

    At first, Schwartz recalled, his rank seemed like a barrier. Sergeant Majors, or E-9s in the Army, rarely work at a team level in the field. So when an E-9 from the Navy showed up, expectations were a little high.
    “When we got past the expectations, it was game on,” Schwartz said. “We came together as a group and took care of business.”

    Three team members would remain at the armory to receive calls for medical support, and forward requests to Schwartz and his junior NCO. They’d plan the missions and go in teams of three to six to service members’ hotels.

    “We dealt with lumps, bumps, sprains, all the way up to diagnosing some individuals with COVID,” Schwartz said.

    His path to New York City started more than three decades ago.

    As a teenager, Schwartz worked for a veterinarian in Las Vegas, and enlisted as a Navy hospital corpsman straight out of high school in 1989. He was drawn to health care.

    “It’s that ability to give back to humanity,” Schwartz explained. “Being able to apply knowledge and intervene…or to save a life – there’s just something that’s always been noble about that.”

    Schwartz spent 13 and a half years on active duty, and then joined the naval reserve.

    On normal reserve weekends, he is the Command Master Chief of Operational Health Support Unit Portsmouth in Virginia. As it’s the senior Non-Commissioned Officer, Schwartz manages 650 personnel in 16 units across six states. Many of them were called to serve aboard the USS Comfort in New York City, while others were tasked to help medical staff inside the city’s hospitals.

    Schwartz has deployed three times over the years – to Bosnia in 1995, Kuwait and Iraq in 2007, and the United Arab Emirates in 2011.

    2007 was also the year he joined the Naval Militia. Schwartz wanted to be able to help on a state level, too. But in more than ten years as a member, serving in the COVID-19 response was his first mission at home.

    Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, where Schwartz works as a critical care float pool nurse, had no COVID patients when the New York National Guard began deploying forces across the state. Rather than wait to be called to duty, Schwartz volunteered for a leave of absence so he could get to the front lines of New York’s pandemic response, and join more than 3,000 reservists serving across the state.

    “I’m one that wants to get into the fight sooner than later,” Schwartz said.

    When people ask him why he volunteers, he answers, “So that you don’t have to. So you can stay home safe.”

    As the sick call mission got underway, Schwartz saw a difference between the Navy corpsmen he was used to working with and the Army medics on his team.

    “Corpsmen in the Navy are expected to be both combat medics and clinicians. They work in clinical settings, hospital settings, do sick call,” Schwartz explained. “[Army] combat medics don’t always get a chance to do sick call. They often just go to the field and do treatment.”

    So he put his knowledge as a corpsman and critical care nurse to use, making sick call visits a teaching opportunity.

    “I’d try to challenge [the medics] to think outside the normal box that they would, to try to understand processes and go further than that. If we diagnosed something, I’d ask, ‘What could be the complications with that?’” Schwartz said.

    Outside sick call, Schwartz saw another way for the team members to learn from one another.

    On down time, he would teach them about Navy heritage and the Reserve, they would teach him about the Army and the National Guard, and both sides would quiz each other.

    “We liked to play stump the Master Chief and stump the Soldier,” Schwartz recalled.

    Four weeks into the mission, the team picked up a second job. They were sent to Brooklyn to conduct COVID-19 swab tests for military members, public health staff, and civilians supporting New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

    The medical examiners officer collects the remains of those who die at home in New York City. A normal day sees about 25 people, but National Guard teams were helping collect over 200 bodies a day at their peak.
    Schwartz and his Guard medics worked where the bodies of those who died from COVID-19 were stored in warehouses and refrigerated trailers before being transported for burial.

    “It’s like being in a mass casualty situation,” Schwartz said. “Knowing there are hundreds and hundreds of bodies coming in – that’s really hard.”

    It’s an experience he said will wear on people’s mental health, no matter how strong they are. And that includes Schwartz.

    Since returning home in early June, he’s begun counseling and doesn’t mind people knowing about it – especially junior members of the military.

    “If they know their senior leadership is willing to do that, maybe they won’t be as reluctant,” Schwartz said.

    “There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to people to talk about what you saw or how you feel.”

    And though he’s no longer on the mission, Schwartz still reaches out to his teammates. They use a mobile app to stay in touch about the mission and keep up regular chats.

    All totaled, he estimates they treated about 100 individuals during sick call, administered close to 400 COVID swab tests, and conducted nearly 800 screenings for COVID symptoms.

    “I felt like I contributed in maintaining the force’s health,” Schwartz said, looking back on the latest addition to his long list of jobs.

    “My biggest thing is making sure our people were able to get back out there continue work on the mission.”



    Date Taken: 07.20.2020
    Date Posted: 07.20.2020 09:59
    Story ID: 374203
    Location: NEW YORK , NY, US 

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