By David Vergun, ARNEWS
WASHINGTON - After treating wounded, sick and injured soldiers in Haiti, Somalia, Columbia and twice in Iraq, an Army medic has applied his skills to the nation's only military maximum-security facility.
Master Sgt. Gregorio Villanuevaochoa has been doing such a great job as operations NCO at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that he was named the Army's Corrections Professional of the Year.
The honor was bestowed by Maj. Gen. David Quantock, commander of Army Corrections Command, because Villanuevaochoa ensures prisoners receive quality health care.
Among his achievements was saving the Army about $300,000 in contract health-care costs through greater efficiencies without cutting staff. Villanuevaochoa supervises about 60 soldiers, civilians and health care providers.
He also checks up on hundreds of prisoners - some serving life and some on death row - to ensure they are all getting proper care and treatment. In addition, he looks out for the health and well-being of the soldiers on his staff.
While Villanuevaochoa has seen his share of horrific war wounds, he said the most common types he sees at the prison are shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, sustained during recreation time, when prisoners are allowed to play basketball, football, lift weights and so on.
The medics interact daily with all the prisoners, he explained, seeing them every morning for checkups and on an as-needed basis. Besides medics, the prisoners have access to all of the doctors who work at nearby Munson Army Health Center: clinical psychologists, optometrists, psychiatrists, podiatrists, social workers, surgeons, dentists, physical therapists and other specialists.
Although the prisoners are being "confined" because they've done wrong, he said they're also receiving high-quality medical treatment and individual or group behavioral counseling and treatment, improving their lives and reducing their chances of recidivism once released.
And while work details are a traditional part of corrections, Villanuevaochoa said they also have the opportunity to learn a trade or skills in metal or woodworking, tailoring, graphic arts and other specialties.
Villanuevaochoa said he's proud of the Army's new medics, who receive about twice the training he received years ago during an eight-week course. "Today our combat medics are better trained and qualified; they are truly force multiplier to all units deployed."
He added that all of his soldiers take great pride in being professionals and ensuring good order and discipline is maintained at all times in the facility.