FORT IRWIN, CA, UNITED STATES
Story by Pfc. Jennifer Spradlin, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FORT IRWIN, Calif. – With more than 17 years as an Army medic and a prior deployment to Iraq, Sgt. 1st Class Randy King, 3rd "Thunder" Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, still preaches the importance of training and leadership to his Soldiers.
His personal motto, "You can't teach what you don't know. You can't lead where you won't go," is the standard set for the medics of the 3rd Sqdn., 3rd ACR, during their rotation at the U.S. Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and their subsequent deployment to Iraq.
The NTC mission for the 3-3 ACR combat medics is two-fold - a responsibility to care and treat the real-world injuries of their Soldiers and to participate in a simulated exercise that mirrors their mission in Iraq.
King said that NTC would be the biggest test yet for many of his Soldiers and that his expectations are high.
"Out of 28 Soldiers, 26 are brand new to the military," said King, an Albany, Ga., native. "I told them that they need to put in 110 percent, because what they get out of this will directly carry over to Iraq."
In the week prior to the start of the main exercise, his Soldiers have run the squadron aid station where the most common ailments have been allergies, ankle sprains and dehydration.
"Soldiers have to drink water," said Sgt. Sabrina Watts, a 3-3 ACR medic with two previous deployments to Iraq. "We constantly brief Soldiers to drink water, but even though it's repetitive, it's so important. If Soldiers aren't drinking enough water, they could die. "
Watts has been in the Army for eight years and is an Ashville, N.C., native. She began her career in logistics and supply but said that a fear of needles and a desire to help Soldiers pushed her to change jobs. The change has been a positive one for Watts, whose goal is to become a licensed practical nurse.
"I'm proud to be a medic and I'm proud to be in the 3rd ACR because they have done great things, and I know they will do great things when they deploy to Iraq," said Watts. This is the first NTC rotation for Watts and also the first opportunity for her to lead and train junior Soldiers in a large-scale training environment.
Between patients, Watts encourages her Soldiers to practice their key medic skills, such as starting an I.V. or putting on a tourniquet, and brainstorm possible scenarios they could encounter during NTC and in Iraq.
"I've learned a lot about professionalism from my NCOs [non-commissioned officers]," said Pfc. Adrian Avalos, a San Diego native. He said that an additional advantage to being at the squadron aid station was working with real patients and developing his bedside manner.
"I was afraid to handle patients at first because I was still learning the right questions to ask and how to interact with them," said Avalos. But with every Soldier treated, his confidence and comfort level increases.
Of his mission in Iraq, Avalos said, "I want to help as many people as I can and come back home safely."
During the main exercise, the focus for the medics will be reacting to mass casualty producing situations and treating Soldiers who may have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury from a vehicle rollover or improvised explosive device. MTBI is one of the most common battlefield injuries, and awareness and treatment of MTBI is a priority across the Department of Defense.
All medics participating in NTC are required to carry an informational pamphlet and form, to help identify those Soldiers who might have suffered from a mild acute concussive event, as part of their uniform.
"We realize that Soldiers are sometimes afraid to get help because they are afraid to be called cowards or malingerers, but we aren't here to judge them, we're here to treat them," said Watts. "If they have an injury, we will fix it and if we can't fix it, we'll send them to someone who can."
The medical field is in a constant state of flux to meet the needs of the Soldiers and to counteract the efforts of the enemy. Over the length of King's career, technology and ways of learning have changed, and the sergeant too must evolve to keep up.
"The rate of change in the medic field is so great that the youngest Soldiers are coming in knowing more than me, even though I have more experience," said King. "I find myself constantly staying in school and taking classes just to keep up with them."
To King, asking questions is a sign of good leadership and the pull to help Soldiers remains undiminished by the length of his career. Of NTC, he said that he hopes those responsible for the exercise challenge his Soldiers at every turn.
"I want them to throw everything they have to us," he said.
||FORT IRWIN, CA, US
This work, NCOs set the bar for the, by SSG Jennifer Spradlin, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.