CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti –
Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ), potentially just became a slightly healthier place with 35 service members from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force completing the U.S. Army’s 40-hour Field Sanitation Training (FST) certification course July 10, 2020.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion (CA BN) led the training, which saw the students learn about a range of topics including food service and water supply sanitation, pest control, and heat injuries. At the end of the week, the students were also required to take a test to earn their certification, which all 35 passed.
By the end of the course, students had gained enough knowledge to act as public health personnel during some of the more common scenarios units could face in field conditions, said Maj. Monica Aruwah, 443rd CA BN Functional Specialty Team environmental science and preventive medicine officer in charge and the primary instructor for the course.
“(In the Army), the FST is a commander’s program, which gives units an organic, preventive medicine capability once a team has been certified,” she said. “Any time a unit has to deal with field conditions, FSTs will be activated to help facilitate the command team on any risk mitigation measures in the planning process for field sanitation and hygiene, vector control, you name it. Dealing with environmental and occupational exposures, those soldiers will be part of that process.”
For some of the personnel going through the course, there were instances in which they were able to identify real-world situations they had been in, where the knowledge they gained would be beneficial to them and their units in the future, Aruwah said.
"I'm an infantryman, so I think we will utilize the latrines and feeding operations in the field the most,” said U.S. Army Spc. Michael Reynolds, CJTF-HOA East Africa Response Force. “We use water buffaloes for training like Air Assault training, and every time we fill up our water jugs and canteens we drink water from there when we are out training, so it’s important that we have confidence we won’t get sick drinking from them."
Aruwah said the course was particularly important right now because the graduates are able to take the lessons learned from the course back to their individual commands and use their newfound knowledge to better protect against any potential blooms of COVID-19.
“Going through this course taught me a lot, especially when it comes to fighting viruses like COVID,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Megan Edwards, CJTF-HOA J8-Comptroller lead defense travel administrator. “When it comes to sanitation, there is a lot more than just washing our hands. The course provided more techniques and situational awareness of risks to prevent spreading."
While much of the course is classroom based, service members had the opportunity to visit several facilities on base, as well as practice skills they learned, such as calculating the wet bulb globe temperature and identifying sanitation concerns, among other topics.
“I think the hands-on application is always the most fun for the students because the course can be information overload from a handbook and from PowerPoint presentations,” Aruwah said. “But once they're able to practice hands-on applications, do a walkthrough of the galley, or we go see how the camp’s water filtration system works and how we're able to drink fresh clean water, it helps hit home the importance of the material that we're teaching them.”