The Charger Blog

Members of the University’s Military Community Serving on Front Lines of Global Coronavirus Pandemic

Meet some of the veterans and active service members in the University of New Haven community who are committing themselves to service amid the global coronavirus pandemic. They hope to make a difference when it is needed the most.

April 28, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Collage of 3 military members from the University of New Haven
Left to right: Brian Ohler, Jake Sibilski, Rocely Urizar.

Earlier this semester, Jake Sibilski ’21 was a full-time student double majoring in paramedicine and biology. But as the coronavirus global pandemic continued to spread, Sibilski heard the call for help, and he was quick to respond.

Rocely Urizar ’21.
Rocely Urizar ’21.

A former member of the United States Coast Guard who was stationed aboard the USCGC Active and the USCG PATFORSWA (Patrol Forces Southwest Asia) for three years, Sibilski was working part time in American Medical Response’s New Haven division and as an emergency department technician at Yale New Haven Hospital. He also has National Registry and Connecticut State Paramedic Licenses, and he knew his training and skills could make a meaningful difference.

“AMR deployed several members to New York City as part of the FEMA response, and I wanted to help fill those empty shifts and share the workload,” he said. “I saw from their social media posts how stressed my coworkers were.”

Sibilski is among many current and former service members in Charger Nation who are now on the front lines of the coronavirus. His classmate, Rocely Urizar ’21, is currently activated. A national security major, Urizar joined the U.S. Army Reserve as an operating room specialist in 2016. She and her unit are now being sent to locations considered to be “hot spots” for COVID-19 to support the response.

Brian Ohler ’20 headshot.
Brian Ohler ’20.

“This pandemic is causing a lot of chaos and need within the medical community, so it is very important for us to get involved,” Urizar said. “I hope to help as many people possible.”

Before he was a student at the University, Brian Ohler ’20 spent 12 years serving in the Connecticut Army National Guard, which took him all over the world. He served three combat tours of duty, which brought him to Baghdad, Iraq; Mosul, Iraq; and western Afghanistan.

Now a student in the University’s homeland security and emergency management program, Ohler is also the associate director of safety and engineering at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Conn. He is on the front lines of the local response to the global coronavirus pandemic – a role that he and his colleagues have been preparing for even before the virus began to spread in the United States.

Brian Ohler ’20 on duty
Brian Ohler spent 12 years serving in the Connecticut Army National Guard.

“Best practices and lessons learned have enabled my teams to embrace the endless evolution of our offensive and defensive postures,” said Ohler, who took on the role of incident safety officer when the hospital established its Hospital Incident Command Structure. “There are so many critical and devoted professionals who are doing everything they possibly can to save lives, mitigate risks, curtail exposures, and sustain themselves as they battle this historic pandemic.”

As a service member, Ohler was well prepared for his role on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. He is continuing to learn and adapt while demonstrating another critical competency: resilience.

“There will be a time when our friends and families will be able to come back together and when businesses can stand back up,” he said. “Courage, not fear, will lead us to brighter, happier days. This, I know.”

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