JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — As reports of COVID-19 cases spread and it was approaching pandemic levels, retired Army Col. Dawn Flynn figured it was only a matter of time before select retirees were called back to service.
In her more than 28 years of uniformed service, Flynn served in the Army nurse corps as a critical care nurse. She retired in 2017 but said she knew her skillset made her an ideal candidate in the event retirees were called back into service.
On March 24, Army Human Resources Command announced a retiree recall program under Title 10, U.S. Code Sections 688 and 12301-d through the direction of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Manpower and Reserve Affairs (ASA-M&RA) with a mass email notification sent to more than 800,000 retirees.
“I was talking to my husband the week before the email came out and I said I was feeling terrible just sitting here doing nothing. I feel like I need to be doing something, it’s just in my nature as a nurse and as a retired Army person to want to help in this national emergency,” Flynn said. “Then the email came out.”
That’s when Flynn, who now serves as an Army Reserve Ambassador for Utah as well as a part-time instructor for a high school certified nursing assistant program, talked to her husband and two children about volunteering to serve again.
“The kids were in agreement and with their willingness to make that sacrifice I was able to submit my affirmative reply that I was available and willing,” Flynn said.
She became one of more than 25,000 to volunteer to serve again. From that number, about 400 were initially selected to serve, according to a Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway quote in an Army Times article. Calloway is the commanding general of Human Resources Command.
Within two weeks of receiving approval, Flynn was on her way from her home in Salt Lake City to Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Once there, Flynn began working in the step down care unit which treats military-related patients who are not critical enough for intensive care unit, but not well enough for the regular floor. She said she typically works three to four days in a row, 12 hours each day before a few days off. Then the cycle begins again.
“I love taking care of military patients and their family members,” Flynn said. “They’re always just a different breed from the civilian sector. I’ve had that wonderful, rewarding experience again taking care of the military population.”
While her duties as an Army Reserve Ambassador have allowed Flynn to remain closely tied to the Soldiers she once served alongside, she is enjoying the pride that comes with once again wearing the uniform.
“All of us have the same opinion, that we really consider it an honor to not only have volunteered but to actually be brought back as a retiree recall,” she said. “It’s always kind of been a calling to serve in the military, but to have that specialty when there’s a national emergency that it’s so bad that you have to reach out to your retired Reserve, and then to actually be called up. We consider it an honor that we are one of the 400 to actually be called up. It’s a great deal of pride to be able to serve again.”
Army Reserve Ambassadors are part of the Army Reserve’s outreach program and volunteer to serve in these positions. These ARAs work in the local communities to inform elected officials, community stakeholders and business leaders of the benefits of the Army Reserve and to advocate for the Army Reserve mission.
“ARA Flynn exemplifies the dedicated service and concern for Soldiers and family members that is found throughout the ARA Corps,” said Dr. Katherine Bissonette, ambassador coordinator for the 88th Readiness Division.
The current mission for Flynn will last for up to 179 days, she said. But, depending on the way the pandemic progresses, that time could either be shortened or extended.
One thing Flynn said she was excited to see was the warm reception she and the other recalled retirees received when they arrived to help in the pandemic response.
“I wasn’t sure how they would react to retirees but everybody has been very supportive,” Flynn said. “Not just the hospital but the post as well. They’ve been very welcoming.”