FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- COVID-19 cases continue climbing in hot spots across the country. Fort Bragg soldiers deployed to McAllen, Texas, in response to the deadly disease have been on the ground at local hospitals working in communities devastated by the novel coronavirus.
"As soon as we got here, we got a wake-up call. We saw a lot of patients who were sick beyond anything we could have ever imagined. People on ventilators and all that stuff," said Spc. Michael Rodriguez.
The Chief Operating Officer of the South Texas health system told ABC11 that 80 percent of their beds are filled with COVID-19 patients. He said soldiers are providing relief to hospital staffers and opening new units as the need for more beds grow.
"This is not normal operations. We have opened units that haven't been used for a long time," said South Texas Health System COO Doug Colburn. "In fact, one case, we converted an old intermediate care nursery to a ward-style ICU for 20 patients."
The 16th Hospital Center is doctors, nurses and other critical-care staffers who are working 12-hour shifts in an intense medical setting. Soldiers said the most rewarding part has been watching patients recover.
"Being able to have a crucial role in getting someone back to their families after having such a terrible disease process," Sgt. Cody Alsup said
Fort Bragg soldiers will return once the mission is complete.
"We bring a high level of expertise in medicine from the Army that we're always ready to deploy and take care of patients wherever we need to be," said Lt. Col. Colin Frament.