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    Army Reserve Soldier shares experience supporting mental health needs of federal COVID response in Texas

    Army Reserve Soldier shares experience supporting mental health needs of federal COVID response in Texas

    Courtesy Photo | Capt. Eric Wilkins, an Army Reserve psychiatric nurse at his home in Colorado Springs,...... read more read more



    Story by Col. Meritt Phillips 

    Army Reserve Medical Command

    “This was a great mission of mercy and humanity,” reflected Capt. Eric Wilkins. “I will take things I learned from this with me throughout my life.”

    An Army Reserve psychiatric nurse from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wilkins was one of 85 Soldiers assigned to Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force-7452 that mobilized to south Texas as part of the Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to COVID-19.

    In total, U.S. Northern Command has assigned approximately 590 military medical and support personnel from the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy to support FEMA in Texas

    Assigned to support DHR Medical in Edinburg, Maj. Wilkins served as the officer in charge of the Task Force’s behavioral health team with the mission to provide mental health assistance to the UAMTF Soldiers and civilian hospital staff caring for COVID-19 patients.

    “It is my passion to be able to help my fellow Soldiers and health care workers with the skills I have been trained in as a mental health nurse,” he stated.

    Wilkins encouraged health care providers to openly share what they were experiencing daily to help them process the difficult environment.

    “(Everyone should) know you are not alone and you have people to help support you through the tough times and shoulders to fall on when you feel your mental burden is too much,” he stated.

    The services the behavioral health team provided required them to maintain their own support system, so they could continue to provide counsel to the overall group.

    “We have a great behavioral health team and we spent our lunches as a processing time for each other,” explained Wilkins. “That was a huge part of what kept me motivated and going forward on even the hardest days.”

    To assure he remains ready to help others deal with their own challenges and grief, Wilkins also relies on those close to him.

    “I call home and speak with my wife and son daily, and I call my father as well, to discuss things to help with my own processing,” shared Wilkins. “There were some really long days, but it was a really good learning experience which I hope to continue to grow from.”

    He started his military career in the Navy, serving six years as a Damage Controlman. He then attended Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., earning a nursing degree in May of 2009. Wilkins then commissioned in the Army, serving on active duty at Joint Base Lewis, McChord in Wash., and at Fort Carson, Colo. He transitioned to the Army Reserve in 2015.

    “I chose to continue in the reserve because I wanted to allow my family to be able to settle in one area, but still be able to serve my country as a Soldier in the Army,” stated Wilkins. “Serving my country is a large part of my family. My father is a retired Marine and my brother-in-law is a senior chief in the U.S. Navy.”

    A husband and father, Wilkins recognized the support and sacrifice his family provide for his service.

    “My family has always been supportive of my military service. My wife and I both come from military families,” said Wilkins. He shared that his wife has been able to work from home during the COVID pandemic, allowing her to assist their son with his online schooling.

    As Wilkins prepares to return home to his family and his civilian position as the Assistance Director of Nursing for Pikes Peak Nursing and Rehab in the Genesis Health Care system, he offered a final comment on the mission.

    “As always, I wish to thank families for being strong, so that we all can go out and help other areas of our nation,” he said. “I feel this was a great opportunity for U.S. Army Reserve to show our professionalism as we supported the state of Texas in this time of need.”



    Date Taken: 09.19.2020
    Date Posted: 09.21.2020 09:05
    Story ID: 378225
    Location: EDINBURG, TX, US 

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