News: Powder River Cowboys defend against flu
Story by 2nd Lt. Christian Venhuizen
FORT HOOD, Texas — The Wyoming Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery Regiment, took precautionary steps to ward off swine flu before it makes its way to Kuwait and Iraq later this summer.
"We haven't had a case of swine flu, and we want to keep it that way," Lt. Col. Brian Nesvik, 2-300th commander, said. "We are keeping our Soldiers informed on ways to avoid spreading it, letting them know we don't have it and letting them know their families back home are healthy."
During mobilization training at North Fort Hood, Texas, the nearly 600 soldiers of the 2-300th filed into a large tented classroom that looked more like a warehouse than a schoolhouse. Inside were three screens flashing a slide show of swine flu information. Capt. Scott Morey, the battalion's medical officer and a physician's assistant from Sheridan, Wyo., focused on the benefits of good personal hygiene.
"It really is amazing what washing your hands and sneezing into your sleeves can do," Morey said. "Soldiers know what they're supposed to do, but a disease like this really helps to motivate them."
An echoing cheer emanated from the mostly Wyoming crowd when word that their home state was swine flu free, though that status has since changed.
"Being from Wyoming is a source of pride for our Powder River Cowboys," Nesvik said. "The fact that the illness hit Wyoming has not changed how much we love our Wyoming home."
The unit is preparing for their missions in Kuwait and Iraq by training in Texas. Cases of swine flu have been reported in Travis County, Texas, just over an hour from the base, and near Dallas, a two and a half hour drive to the north.
"We have little contact with people from outside of the base," said Nesvik. "Besides, there are no promises that we wouldn't get sick in Wyoming. We're just glad to hear our families are safe."
Remaining vigilant, Morey and his medical staff are watching for signs of the disease in Soldiers who complain of flu-like symptoms. Soldiers who are sick report to the North Fort Hood troop medical clinic.
The 2-300th operates from armories in Gillette, Sheridan, Worland, Lander, Lovell, Cody and Powell, Wyo. It is augmented by Soldiers from Company A, 960th Brigade Support Battalion; the 148th Signal Company, 115th Fires Brigade; and other Soldiers from around Wyoming and the nation for this deployment. The battalion mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in April 2009 to perform security missions in Kuwait and Iraq.