News: Marine gets clearer view of future during MEDCAP
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Regina L. Brown
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs
TADJOURA, Djibouti -- After spending eight years in the United States Marine Corps as an adjutant and logistics officer, Capt. Erin Nalepa, a Dearborn, Mich., native, decided she wanted to do something different with her life, so she joined the reserves and started on a nursing degree. She never imagined that an opportunity to get hands-on experience in the medical field would be available to her while on deployment at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti.
Army Lt. Col. Alana Conley offered her the opportunity to help the 350th Civil Affairs Command functional specialty team with a Medical Civic Action Program that was conducted in the villages of Dalay-Af, Alaili Dadda and Obock, located in Djibouti from Sept.15-27, and Nalepa immediately jumped at the chance.
Nalepa already had experience helping others through the time she spent volunteering with the American Red Cross. Some of her volunteer experiences include visiting patients at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., teaching classes to students at the United States Marine Corps School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, N.C. on the process of Red Cross Emergency Messages and teaching first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation at Orange County ARC in Anaheim, Calif.
Being a staff secretary to CJTF-HOA Chief of Staff, Navy Capt. William Sizemore, Nalepa doesn't get out of the office much, but Nalepa was able to break from her job and dedicate four days to help with the MEDCAP.
"I hear about all the things that go on here at CJTF-HOA, but I haven't been able to see anything until now," said Nalepa. "This is just amazing to see all the logistics and all the planning that happens when we come together out here. Seeing what we're actually doing for these people is pretty great."
Nalepa was given the job of fitting patients for adaptive eyewear during the MEDCAP. The strength of the glasses is changed using syringes which adjust the amount of liquid in each lens. The syringes used to make the changes can then be removed. Even though the job required no medical expertise, Nalepa was still able to gain experience helping others.
Throughout her life, Nalepa has admired the bedside manner of not only her family doctors, but her mother as well. Nalepa's mother, Janet, is an X-ray and mammography technician at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn.
"I think of the way the doctors made me feel better and comforted me when I was sick and I want to be able to do that for others," said Nalepa.
The MEDCAP gave her the perfect opportunity to get hands on experience with helping people and to do her part to support the mission of CJTF-HOA, which is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in east Africa and Yemen through humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management, and civic action programs to include medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction, and water development projects.
"This MEDCAP has really given me a much better perspective of what we do at CJTF-HOA, as well as giving me a chance to do work in the medical field," said Nalepa. "After participating, I feel even stronger about becoming a nurse."
Nalepa is currently completing pre-requisites and will apply to a nursing program as soon as she returns from deployment in mid-October.