"Serving with civilian counterparts, shoulder to shoulder, was a great honor. The staff and patients I interacted with were nothing but grateful for our help," stated Army Maj. Joshua Salomon Solheim, an Army Reserve nurse anesthetist, regarding his recent mission with an urban augmentation medical task force in South Texas.
He is one of more than 1,000 skilled Army Reserve medical Soldiers that have mobilized since March to provide Defense Department support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a member of UAMTF-7458, Solheim was part of a team of doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists and ancillary personnel assigned to assist Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas. Their mission was to expand the capacity of care the civilian medical facility could offer the community. Solheim served on a rapid response team, providing emergency care for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
"Being able to make a lasting impact and to help those in need, while shoulder to shoulder with America's greatest, makes the mission something I'm very proud of," Solheim said.
Born in Switzerland, Solheim credits his mother's respect for U.S. service members in post-war Europe for sparking his interest in the military. He enlisted in the Army Reserve at the age of 17 and trained as a combat medic and licensed practical nurse.
"After we moved to the U.S., and especially after Sept. 11, I wanted to give back to my country by serving as a Soldier," he shared. "What an honor it is to serve this great country, to follow in the footsteps of those men and women who have given so much for us today."
Solheim earned a Bachelor's in Nursing from Carroll College in Helena, Montana, in 2008, which earned him a direct commission. He went on to earn a Master's in Theological Studies from Liberty University in 2013 and a Master's in Nurse Anesthesia in 2016 from the Wake Forest School of Medicine nurse anesthesia program.
Although Solheim has served on other missions in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Africa, this was his first time augmenting a civilian hospital.
"Integrating with a civilian hospital as a uniform member was very unique [experience] for me. In the past, I had either worked as a civilian in a civilian facility or as a Soldier in a military facility," Solheim explained. "But what is more honorable and humbling than to serve our own? It was a privilege."
A resident of Greensboro, North Carolina, Solheim works as a civilian with Gate City Anesthesia at the Surgical Center of Greensboro.
"My family is very supportive and proud of my service," Solheim stated. "My wife's family, among others, helped my pregnant wife and our three kids during my absence."
Solheim also relied on his strong faith to deal with the challenges the mission presented, such as being assigned to the night shift.
"There were many nights we would respond to multiple back-to-back code and rapid response calls, initiating life-saving interventions to extremely ill patients. But there were rays of hope and joy as some would respond to treatment and get better, eventually reuniting with their families."
"It is my honor to serve this great country and to share in camaraderie with many amazing service members that are making a difference for our country," stated Solheim in closing.
In total, U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, assigned approximately 590 military medical and support personnel from the Army and the Navy in support of FEMA in Texas.