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Blackjack Medics keep CJTF-HOA healthy

By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald | | January 22, 2003

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A team of "Blackjack Medics" from the Army's 520th Medical Company, Fort Lewis, Wash., work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide medical care to keep the warriors of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa combat effective.

"Our primary mission here is to support the BOS (Base Operations Support Center) and Camp Lemonier in general with medical capabilities," said 2nd Lt. Luis A. Rocha, medical administration officer.

The team is capable of supporting the service members with Level 1 care, meaning basic medicine. Level 2 care would include a laboratory and X-ray, and Level 3 care would be everything found in a hospital, such as a permanent surgical team and a pharmacy.

Rocha, a Corpus Christi, Texas, native, said, "We don't have access to a laboratory, X-ray or dentist here, but the hospital in town has been really good about letting us use their facilities when we need to. We do have a variety of immunizations, and we have a sick call which is open twice a day, everyday."

The medics at the Camp Lemonier Aid Station here see between 15 and 20 patients a day, according to Capt. Garry D. Berndt, a physician's assistant and Eagle Rock, Alaska, native.

"Most of the stuff we've seen since we've been here are minor illnesses and injuries, stuff like diarrhea, colds and upper respiratory infections," commented Rocha. "If a soldier came in with a gunshot wound or something like that, we would try to stabilize him."

If a service member were to suffer a serious injury and could be stabilized, he would be evaluated by the camp's medical team. If deemed necessary, the injured troop would be transported via air to a facility that is equipped to handle the emergency, as stated by Air Force Capt. Martin K. DeFant, flight clinical coordinator and flight nurse with the 320th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

The 320th EAES is tasked with ensuring rapid movement for injured patients to medical points within the area of operation.

Also, in order to keep troops here free from sickness, the medical team takes measures to prevent illnesses from spreading.

Spc. Elva A. Bautista, a food inspector, keeps a close eye on all the chow that comes into the camp.

"I inspect the chow hall and MREs (Meal-Ready-to-Eat) that come in," the San Bernandino, Calif., native said. "I make sure nothing is spoiled or packages aren't bloated."

She went on the say, "I also inspect food quality. I have to make sure the government is getting the food it's paying for."

Other preventive measures include administering immunizations; making sure latrines are enough distance away from where people work or eat; and inspecting the camp for standing water, where mosquitoes might breed.

"We haven't been too busy here. I guess the camp is just a pretty healthy camp," said Rocha.

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