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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2023

All enlisted team provides Bio-Medical support to JTF MED 374 and other trace down units

By Capt. Brandon Janson 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support)

The medical field heavily relies on the use of specialized medical equipment in order to assess and treat patients. Without this equipment, healthcare professionals would not have the tools necessary to treat Soldiers properly. These highly sensitive and specialized equipment are related directly to the medical capabilities of a facility to include laboratory services, imaging studies, biomarker monitoring, ventilator assistance, oxygen availability, infusion pumps, as well as storage of vital medication and blood products. To ensure that medical staff can do their job, the biomedical team of JTF MED 374 remains ready to do theirs.

Composed of an all-enlisted team, including Sgt. Kathleen Ortega (NCOIC), Sgt. Justin McCurdy, Spc. Elizabeth Dunfee, and Spc. Darius Watkins-Sims. This highly trained team is responsible for over 500 pieces of medical equipment valued at over 18 million dollars.

"Working in BioMed and working on medical equipment is rewarding," said McCurdy. "Someone can look at something and not know what it is and think it is useless, but as a BioMed and keeping things functional, you know it is valuable to the people using it."

"I really like working on the anesthesia equipment and working with the electrical and pneumatic components," said Dunfee. "When this equipment is not working, people kind of freak out. A lot of times, it's usually a simple fix, but this is a very important piece of equipment."

Another important piece of equipment for the team are the POGS (portable oxygen generator system). While having oxygen in theater does not sound like a high priority, the availability of oxygen and functioning ventilator equipment is essential for any type of surgical procedure performed. This is an essential piece of equipment for the OR which has to be meticulously maintained, conserved, and utilized properly. The setup for the POGS system can take up to 45 minutes. During one of the unscheduled procedures, the BioMed team was onsite, ensuring that all equipment was functioning and on standby if any of the equipment needed adjusting and ready to swap out if needed.

"Having a good team makes a big difference. It helps out a lot," said McCurdy. "We work a lot independently, but we also work together. Each of us has our own style, or way of troubleshooting, and this helps us figure out deficient equipment at times as we are able to come at it from different angles. Each of us has knowledge and experience working on different types of equipment."

Another key accomplishment for the department was repairing the CT machine at the Role III, which had been non-functioning for some time.

"We were able to do something that the three previous rotations were not able to do. It was a great achievement," said Watkins-Simms.

To become a BioMed technician is not an easy path. In addition to scoring high enough on the military placement exam, Soldiers must endure a years worth of technician training, where they learn to work on vast amounts of medical equipment, learning the finer points of servicing and troubleshooting sophisticated electronic equipment and tools. Additional specialized training takes place at General Electric Healthcare Institute—one of the leading medical manufacturers of medical equipment in the industry. According to McCurdy, 48 percent of BioMed's in the industry are trained by the U.S. Army.

"I had companies trying to hire me on the civilian side before I even graduated AIT (advanced individual training)," said Dunfee. "Military trained BioMed's are very sought after and in high demand. The Army Reserve also partners with some manufacturing companies and is given proprietary training on their equipment, that is the same equipment we use and work on. You really get to learn the ins and out of the medical equipment directly from the manufacturer. This MOS (military occupational specialty) opens doors, and I would recommend it to anyone. It gives you a chance to work in the medical field without having to work on patients."

In addition to supporting the Role III Hospital Center, the BioMed crew also provides medical maintenance support to the other supporting medical units in the middle-east.

"Working with the other units is rewarding, but the workspace can be a little challenging at times," said Watkins-Simms. "At our main site, we have everything we need and a good setup. "When we get these other sites, we don't have all our tools, and space is an issue. We just adjust the best we can."

Other challenges for the BioMed team are the extreme temperature changes in the desert, as this affects a majority of the equipment they work on. Temperatures can sometimes reach 130 Fahrenheit in the summer months while also experiencing 50 degrees in temp on the same day. To combat this, the team stays diligent in its medical maintenance scheduling and identifies issues proactively. Another pet peeve of the team is when users leave posted notes on equipment that says "broken" with no descriptions of the problems they are having with the equipment.

Overall, the BioMed team enjoys the challenges of the job and keeping the medical equipment in the hospital in working condition.