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NEWS | June 27, 2024

Army Reserve medics ensure success, less attrition for West Point SLE 2024

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Hernandez Army Reserve Medical Command

Eighteen U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from both Army Reserve Medical Command and 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) provided healthcare services, assistance and transportation support for over 1,100 cadet candidates that took part in 2024 Summer Leaders Experience at United States Military Academy here, held June 2, 2024, through June 15, 2024.

U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Michael Bolduc, the medical officer-in-charge of the Admissions Department for USMA, said that the concept of AR-MEDCOM and 3rd MCDS support of SLE arose from the need to augment the Keller Army Community Hospital personnel and assets to accommodate the large influx of cadet candidates.

"The AR-MEDCOM team has been integral in minimizing impact at the hospital, and really being able to return to duty a lot of these patients," Bolduc said. "If they need a Band-Aid, and if they just had a minor tweak, sprain or things like that; we can do an evaluation here on ground and not have to send them out."

At the beginning of each year, Bolduc said that USMA will solicit the request to AR-MEDCOM and the 3rd MCDS.

"We reach out to them and allow them to go through the credentialing process," said Bolduc. "We typically ask for a handful of providers and a handful of [combat medics] to really facilitate medical care for the 1,100 candidates while they are here."

Bolduc said that the campus was configured to resemble a deployed area.

"While they are here on the ground, we set up an aid station like a deployed setting type of environment," Bolduc said. "We set up that aid station, I provide them the support that they need and we take 100 percent care of the candidates in terms of their medical needs while they are here on the ground."

The major said that the safety of the participants was their highest priority.

"If there are situations where we need to send a kid to an advanced level of care, we have a transport team that provides that service depending on the plan of the provider and what they determine that is necessary," he said.

"We work closely with Keller Hospital here on post and we have a relationship with them," he said.

The West Point admission department is seeking the best students and the best leaders, he said.

"They're deemed by the Admissions Department as highly competitive, and so it's an opportunity to bring them out and show them for a week what the cadet life looks like out here from an academic standpoint," Bolduc said.

"All the way to the military side of the house where we put together some military-type training for a couple of days, so they kind of get the full experience here," the major said.

Bolduc said that there is an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at West Point, which is why they have developed another program in tandem with SLE.

"For the STEM program, it coincides with the Summer Leaders Experience program in terms with the same two weeks that it is carried out," Bolduc said. "There's roughly 250 additional students in that program. Those students are in addition to the SLE candidates that we are expecting our providers and our medical team from AR-MEDCOM to treat."

U.S. Army Reserve Col. Philip Palmer, a family medicine physician assigned to the San Antonio-based 7210th Medical Support Unit and medical OIC for this iteration of SLE, said that working with the cadets and the cadet candidates gives his Soldiers real-life, unscripted training.

"It's been excellent, and I didn't know what to expect coming in as the OIC for this event," said Palmer. "I was bringing seven Soldiers from my unit in San Antonio, Texas, but I knew that there would be a couple of other providers joining us as well as a eight-member evac team to help us transport patients if the need arises."

The colonel said that he was amazed by the synchronicity the Soldiers developed working together.

"It's just been fantastic in the way that we meshed together, worked together and building a sense of community and working to meet the needs of the cadet candidates while they're here. It's been really encouraging to me as an officer and as a leader for the medical portion of this event."

U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. John Berlanga, a practical nurse for the 7210th MSU, said he was thrilled with the opportunity with work alongside his peers and West Point cadets.

"My experience in working with these cadets has been positive, and dealing with new scenarios," Berlanga said. "The big thing is the communication between enlisted and providers, and working with the cadre on a different level."

The staff sergeant said that SLE was a learning experience for him too.

"The big insight is that everybody is bringing something to the table," said Berlanga. "In the medical field, there are different realms. Just learning from an emergency room physician to a primary physician, you get to be exposed to acute settings and situations."

Bolduc said the West Point leadership and community recognized that SLE would not be such a success without the AR-MEDCOM Warrior Medics and the 3rd MCDS Desert Medics.

"They are very thankful and very happy that we have this plan in place, and it's great to have this support from AR-MEDCOM."