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Marine Forces Europe and Africa

United States Marine Corps

USAG Stuttgart, Germany
Georgian soldiers keep it clean

By Capt. Teresa Ovalle | | July 17, 2003

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Injuries claiming casualties in combat are not limited to a 'round down range', an RPG or a hand grenade. Non-combat related injuries claim casualties just as easily as a well-aimed bullet.

Rashes, Trench foot, food poisoning, malaria and the plague are just a few non-combat casualty considerations of doing battle in a foreign country.

Preventing these injuries from happening is on the shoulders of the preventive medicine soldiers, usually assigned to an Army medical detachment. They go into an area, prior to the unit arriving, and conduct a series of tests to ensure the surrounding area is safe for the incoming unit.  If the chosen area deems unsafe, the soldiers either chose a different location or begin the work necessary to decrease the number of non-combat casualty concerns within a particular area.

Eighteen Georgian soldiers of the 113th Light Infantry Battalion took the challenge of becoming the first preventive medicine trained soldiers in the Georgia Train and Equip Program and in their battalion.

"I was impressed with the training," said Cpl. Berdia Kalandia, Medical platoon, 113th Light Infantry Battalion.  "It's practical and it's something that we can use in combat."

The 40-hour period of instruction is not for the light hearted.  The two-to-three hour 100- question test covers a myriad of subjects to include: base camp assessment, water quality monitoring, personal hygiene and messing facility/area analysis.  

Insect control and pesticide use, heat stress management, field sanitation, chemical storage and rodent control classes are also included in the Preventive Medicine program.

As an addition to the class, the Georgian soldiers learn depleted uranium testing procedures, both in the classroom and during a practical application exercise.  Many munitions and armor-plated vehicles contain depleted uranium and can become a hazard to soldiers if the substance is exposed.

"The idea is to instill how important these skills are to a unit," Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Guerrero, senior preventive medicine non-commissioned officer. "The goal is for the soldiers to realize that without precaution, it opens the window to an increased number of non-combat related injuries," added the Dangriga, Belize native.

Many of the newly acquired skills come with practice.  The soldiers conduct a full camp assessment to minimize the risk of unnecessary environmental hazards such as insects, rodents, reptiles and previous hazardous waste material spillage areas. 

A complete messhall inspection is done as well to ensure food is kept at proper temperatures and to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms in and around the messing facility.

For outdoor messing and eating areas, the emphasis is placed on the distance the areas are to the waste sights and water collection points. 

"Insects carry harmful microorganisms from one source to another that can cause an outbreak and the distance helps to prevent such illnesses from happening," said Guerrero.

A 'tick drag', pesticide application, water monitoring and analysis and heat stress monitoring, using the wet bulb method, are also part of the practical application exercise. 

"I'm satisfied with the training," said Senior Lieutenant Avtandil Abshidze, battalion medical doctor, 113th Light Infantry Battalion, "because the soldiers understand their jobs and can use their skills in practical situations."

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