WEST POINT, N.Y. –
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from both the Army Reserve Medical Command and the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) were dispatched to the U.S. Military Academy to provide real-world medical support and advisement during the Summer Leadership Experience 2023 here, June 3-9 and June 10-16, 2023.
Held twice every year at the prestigious West Point academy, SLE delegates cadets into the role as cadre and support staff to lead and guide potential cadet candidates throughout the course.
"The Summer Leadership Experience is a program led by the Directorate of Admissions where we send in 1,100 rising high school seniors and give them a one-week exposure to the U.S. Military Academy in academics, physical training and military training," said U.S. Army Col. Peter Mack, Directorate of Admissions Medical Officer at West Point. "It allows them to see if the academy life would be like for them."
To ensure minimal hospitalization and attrition reduction of cadet candidates due to injuries and illnesses, West Point leadership always incorporate Army Reserve medical Soldiers and equipment for every SLE session.
The pilot program for Army Reserve medical support during SLE resulted in over a 90 percent decrease in hospitalization for cadet candidates.
"We went from sending 110 cadet candidates to the hospital for simple things such as headaches, sprains, bumps, bruises, and contusions," Mack said. "When medics started treating that, that number dropped that we sent to the hospital from 110 down to 10. Afterward, we expanded the program to bring nurses and medical providers."
According to U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Francis Deravens, a combat medic assigned to the Northeast Medical Area Readiness Support Group, Staten Island, N.Y., him and other Soldiers work tirelessly and expeditiously to maintain the status quo.
"Overall, we are a Level 1 real-world clinic just providing simple aid," Deravens said. "Anything from dehydration to if someone needs to get transported to the hospital. As of (five days into the SLE events), we have seen around 60 individuals - a mix between candidates, cadets and also staff. At the end, we typically see about 100 people in the end of one week for various reasons."
Aside from the benefit of the partnership between West Point and the Army Reserve, this experience has also been conducive to medical Soldiers in the upkeep of their skill sets and aptitude.
"It has been a really good experience, as this is the first time that I've done any true medical coverage since Advanced Individual Training," said U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Zachary Epstein, a combat medic assigned to 451st Medical Detachment, a 3rd MCDS unit out of Hartford, Connecticut. "We've seen all sorts of different injuries and illnesses, from bumps and bruises to twisted ankles to anxiety effects. So it has been good, especially working closely with the providers."
Furthermore, cadet candidates obtain a greater understanding of what medical Soldiers can provide in both the training and operational environment.
"The exposure to the Army Medical Department is incredible, no matter what branch that they go into; whether it is Combat Arms, Combat Support or Combat Service Support, they are going to be dealing with medical in any operation that they do," Mack said. "So they get to see this firsthand, and can see what the medics can do to keep their Soldiers in the fight rather than evacuating them to a higher role of care and losing them for training and for any military operation. It enhances the mission, and it is a force multipler and this has been an incredible experience for them."
The next iterations of SLE are currently slated for June 1-7/June 8-14, 2024. Nonetheless, Army Reserve medical support will remain an integral component of SLE preplanning and execution.
"We can't live without Army Reserve medical support," Mack said. "It makes this program safe, it makes it run very smoothly, and it also helps enhance the training because we can keep Soldiers in the fight and allow them to continue training without them going to the hospital."