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Tampa natives in Air Force reserve answering the call of duty to help battle COVID-19

Air Force reserves deploying to fight COVID-19
Posted at 10:26 PM, Apr 15, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- On Wednesday, 12 U.S. Air Force reservists with the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, left the MacDill Air Force Base to do their part to save lives.

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska talked to two Tampa natives leaving their families behind to help those in need.

"It's a unique experience for sure I mean we've never really dealt with anything like this," Captain Jake Silvola-Finch, a flight nurse, said. "So, you get the call, and there's not a lot of details provided for you, and that's just how it is sometimes. I think we are all blessed to be here and be healthy enough to do it, so when you get the call to do it, nobody hesitated, and we showed up."

Silvola-Finch is a nurse at Tampa General Hospital. His daily role as a nurse in civilian life will be a significant asset to people suffering from respiratory issues from COVID-19.

"I'm a nurse manager right now for a ventilator weaning unit, and so a lot of what we do is respiratory patients," Silvola-Finch said.

The plane will land in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night. The mission after that is classified.

The reservists are still in the dark about what their exact mission is. For now, they know their job will be mobilizing to fight the virus.

"We've never really experienced anything like this before, to be honest with you gotta go in with an open mind and treat everything as I see it," Staff Sgt. Christopher Merrell said.

Merrell is also a Tampa native has to leave his 3-year-old daughter Emerson Grace.

Merrell said he told her, "daddy's going away for a little bit, but I'll be back just trying to help."

Whenever she sees a plane, she thinks he is onboard.

"I try to explain it to her. She looks up at the sky she sees a plane and says, 'Oh, is daddy on that plane?' so try to maintain it like that," Merrell said.