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Semper Gumby: MSU-E Soldiers help out at NSTA clinic while learning new jobs

By Sgt. 1st Class John Freese, 7th MSC Public Affairs Office | 7th Mission Support Command | July 16, 2017

NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — At work or during off time, a group of Army Reserve Soldiers from the Medical Support Unit – Europe stayed very busy during Exercise Saber Guardian 17.

During large military exercises, Soldiers often are asked to perform jobs outside their specific skill sets. But, these Soldiers performed a kind of trifecta.

During the work day, the three MSU Soldiers filled key administrative and security roles for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s Forward Command Post. They also spent their off time learning what it takes to be combat medics and volunteering at the Novo Selo Training Area’s Troop Medical Clinic.

“The Soldiers took it upon themselves to go over there and ask to pitch in,” said Capt. Jessica Denison, an operations officer at the FCP, who had overall supervisory responsibility of the MSU personnel. “I was impressed by that.”

The TMC and its patients benefited from the MSU Soldiers’ work, said Staff Sgt. Jessica Suh, NSTA Troop Medical Clinic non-commissioned officer in charge.

They registered patients during sick call hours and inventoried medical supplies, said Spc. Lisa Rose, a medical logistics specialist. Like much of NSTA itself, the clinic is new, and the inventory is continually building, she said.

The initiative to volunteer their extra time at the TMC came from their peer and medical-subject-matter expert, Sgt. Rashaun Smith, a combat medic.

Smith not only suggested they help at the clinic, but he also designed an impromptu obstacle course to hone the emergency medical skills that combat lifesavers employ.

He laid out the course inside the NSTA gym. The Soldiers donned heavy body armor and carried a weight bar to simulate a weapon.

“It was a very abbreviated but intense course … giving them the basics of pressure dressings, airway injuries, and treating for shock,” Smith said. “They had to fight off a couple of the enemy, carry ammo cans, climb over and under things, and drag a patient to safety. I had some heavy rope whips in there too. I don’t know what they were for, to be honest, except to make things hard.”

The training was fun, the Soldiers said, resulting in a few stumbles and giggles. It was also challenging.

“I learned that it’s very difficult to perform life-saving tasks on a patient when you yourself are under stress, and your heart rate is high,” said Spc. Leia Zenk, a dental specialist.

She expressed interest in gaining combat lifesaver certification as a result of the experience.

Smith’s goal was to give his troops from the general medical field a sense of what combat medical care involved and learn how important it was to Soldiers in battle.

This is training they aren’t likely enough to get at home station, Smith said.

Rose, too, found motivation to consider a deeper involvement in medic tasks.

“The experience made me actually consider gaining the Medic (Military Occupational Specialty),” she said, “Maybe at some time in the future I will do that.”

As if that wasn’t enough, they had day jobs, too. During their on-duty time, the Soldiers were placed in an important security roles.

They checked identification, maintained a visitor log and gave badges to visitors. They also had other duties around the facility.

“It’s not work I’ve really done before,” Zenk said. “It was nice to help out and to learn something new.”

The work can be a long-hours daily grind, and is not always easy. Occasionally, visitors are in a hurry to make a meeting and are not anxious to slow their approach for badging and logging in.

“It takes some courage for a specialist to halt and deny access to a lieutenant colonel who insists he doesn’t need a badge,” said Staff Sgt. Tyra Lavalais, from the 7th MSC’s G2, who provided some expedited training to the would-be sentries.

“The need was urgent and time was tight, so I had to provide a lot of information to them very quickly,” she said. “They were sharp, fast learners, and really took it seriously.”

The Soldiers were in Bulgaria as part of the 21st TSC’s FCP, which is composed of Soldiers from the 21st TSC and the 21st Special Troops Battalion. It also includes the Army Reserve’s 7th Mission Support Command, including the MSU-E, and the 103rd Expeditionary Support Command.

The FCP provides mission command from a forward location to be able to de-conflict any friction that occurs while providing logistical support to the 14,000 U.S. Soldiers in the three-country exercise.