ROTC cadets learn medical ropes at BJACH
August 3, 2009
- MEDDAC invests in Army future
FORT POLK, La. -- They came to Fort Polk's Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital from places as diverse as Mechanicsville, Va., Watkins Glen, N.Y., South Haven, Mich., and Chicago. But despite their background differences, they are of one purpose: To prepare for a career as an Army officer.
They are Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets participating in summer training programs. Four cadets - three headed toward careers as Army nurses and one as a medical services officer - are working at BJACH completing their training after spending 30 days at a leadership development and assessment course at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Cadet Marie Elliott attends Virginia Commonwealth University and expects to graduate in May 2010. Her reason for choosing an Army career path is simple - she's just following a Family tradition.
"My whole Family is Army, so I thought I'd try it out," the 20-year-old said.
Elliott said she's noticed one big difference between military medical personnel and civilians.
"The military seems to me to be more professional," she said. "They also seem to take more of a leadership role."
Another difference Elliott noted was how closely everyone works together at BJACH.
"There's more teamwork here," she said. "The doctors and nurses interact more."
For Elliott, the three-week trip to Fort Polk was like working in her hometown.
"I'm used to a small town," she said. "I like the slower pace. I've enjoyed being here and seeing what the military is like day-to-day. You don't see that a lot in ROTC."
Chicago native Eric Samuels graduates from Purdue University in December with a nursing degree.
Samuels said he's wanted to be a Soldier for some time.
"I wanted to enlist after high school, but my Family wanted me to go the officer route," he said. "I'm glad I did."
Samuels said his BJACH tour has reaffirmed his decision to join the Army.
"I've had a chance to work in the operating and emergency rooms," he said. "I'd never been in a military hospital. After being here, I definitely believe I've made the right career choice."
While the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are always on his mind, Samuels said he's not worried about the possibility of being deployed.
"I knew there was a war going on when I joined," he said. "There are plenty of others who have gone before me. I know my mother would be heartbroken if I were sent, but she'd understand - it's something I'd have to do."
Samuels said a career as an Army nurse will allow him to do two things he always wanted to do.
"I can be a nurse and serve my country," he said. "This allows me to do both."
Natasha Evans attends El Mira College and graduates in May 2010. Upon graduation, she'll embark on a career in the Army's Medical Services Corps. Evans said she stumbled into ROTC by accident - sort of.
"I needed a social science my freshman year and decided to give military science a shot," said Evans, who calls Watkins Glen, N.Y., home. "I liked it and decided to join ROTC. I'm glad I did."
Evans said she's not sure what she'll do as a medical service officer, but she hopes it leads to an opportunity to attend medical school.
"I'm a biology/chemistry pre-med major with a minor in French and math," she said. "I like working with kids and I like the medical field, so hopefully I can get the Army to pay for medical school."
Evans said she's enjoyed her training at BJACH.
"I've learned to draw blood, worked in the OR (operating room) and in OB (obstetrics) and Family Practice," she said. "It's been a great learning experience for me."
The fourth member of the visiting quartet, Jennifer Larsen of South Haven, Mich., graduates from Western Michigan University in April 2010. With three Family members already serving in the military, the soon-to-be Army nurse said she was not surprised by what she saw at BJACH.
"There's a big difference between a military hospital and a civilian hospital," she said. "The people here are younger, tougher and more fit. It's obvious they came to serve."
She also pointed to the teamwork among the hospital staff.
"The communication between everyone is wonderful compared to a civilian hospital," she said. "They work together better as a team. They are worried about the mission as a whole instead of just their jobs."
Larsen said she appreciates how the staff at BJACH allow students to get the full experience of what goes on in a hospital.
"They'll let you try everything," she said. "It's been a great experience. This is definitely where I want to be. I love it here."
Lt. Col. William Kuhns, chief of BJACH's Hospital Education Division, said the hospital is always happy to host students.
"It's important that we help provide these young people a good foundation as they begin their Army career," he said. "They are our future."