The New Front Line

April 21, 2021 - Dorene DiNaro

Anderson and NunezUNM Army ROTC cadets serve on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cadets in The University of New Mexico Army ROTC program take classes, go through training, commission as officers in the United States Army, and then are put in life-threatening situations for the betterment of the community—in that order. 

However, for two UNM Army ROTC cadets, Nicialia Nunez and Victoria Anderson, COVID-19 didn’t follow that schedule.  The two skipped a few steps and went straight to the front line.  Nunez, a senior nursing student, tasked with clinicals, studying for upcoming training, and planning for graduation, added risking her own safety to combat the virus to the list. 

As the pandemic disproportionately ravaged many of the First Nation Communities throughout the state, Nunez began her COVID relief work with Chinle Indian Health Services where she trained as a certified contract tracer.  She was responsible for daily health check-ins with COVID positive patients to provide guidance on quarantine recommendations and offer resources for any fresh water, grocery, or medical supplies.

For the past several months, Nunez has cared for COVID positive patients in the University of New Mexico Hospital ICU.  Many of the patients she cared for were sedated and required acute care.  Nunez did everything from administering medications and monitoring her patients’ overall health.  Because family members and friends weren't’t allowed in the hospital, Nunez many times served as a conduit between the patient and their loved ones. 

Nunez was frequently called upon to give family updates. “One of the most rewarding parts of my work was being able to set up an iPad for family members to be able to video chat with their patient” Nunez says. 

Likewise, Anderson, a Community Health major, worked closely with her New Mexico Army National Guard unit to provide COVID relief to field hospitals on our state’s Navajo reservations. Her work included COVID testing, patient care and transportation.  “My COVID-19 relief work with the Guard gave me the ability to help a diverse community that wouldn't’t have been able to get help otherwise,” she says.

Cadet Anderson is on track to graduate from UNM and commission into the New Mexico Army National Guard in 2023. Cadet Nunez will graduate and commission this May as an Army Nurse. Upon commissioning, both will officially take the oath to defend and serve the people of the United States.  However, for Anderson and Nunez living up to that oath has already begun.