"Being here has shown me the best in humanity, and I am proud to have been a part of this task force," said Army Spc. Okan Pekgil, sharing his experience serving with an urban augmentation medical task force.
A combat medic, Pekgil was part of a team of 85 doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists and ancillary personnel mobilized to South Texas. The unit was part of the Defense Department support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assigned to assist DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas, the team spent several weeks expanding the capacity of care at the Rio Grande Valley facility.
"This was my first time working in a COVID-19 environment, and the first shift had me on edge," Pekgil said. "But after the first shift, everything sort of fell into place. I realized I was meant to be here and overcame any worry I had about being in the thick of things."
Born and raised in San Francisco, this was Pekgil's first mobilization.
"Working with such ill people was emotionally challenging, but I took solace in the fact that we were helping them heal and providing comfort," Pekgil said. "They knew they were not alone in their time of need."
He enlisted in 2019 at the age of 31.
"I joined the Army to be a part of something bigger than myself," Pekgil continued. "I feel I joined at the right time in my life, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made."
Pekgil is a biology major at San Francisco State University when not serving in America's Army Reserve.
"I chose the reserve in order to finish my undergraduate degree and attend graduate school while I care for my mother," he explained. "Being a medic is a wonderful way to care for and protect people I work with and fellow citizens."
Promoted to the rank of specialist on the mobilization, Pekgil explained that his family is very supportive of his service.
"I am the son of Turkish immigrants, and besides my mother, the rest of my family is in Turkey," he said, sharing that his father is now deceased. "They are all very proud of me and feel that I have made a great choice by joining the U.S. Army."
As he returns from Texas, Pekgil shares a final thought as he prepares to catch up on his studies in order to make his December graduation.
"It was the honor of a lifetime to work alongside such brave and hard-working people. I have learned so much about medicine and appreciate how much I have grown since joining. I am looking forward to the road ahead," he said.
(Army Courtesy Story from Army Reserve Medical Command)