By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneDecember 20, 2018
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Dec. 20, 2018) -- Sophomores from The Health Academy at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City got a practical lesson in what combat medics do while on tour of Fort Sill Dec. 12.
The students are in Christian Saunders Hobbs' anatomy and physiology class, and they wore scrubs because that's what they do every Wednesday, class member Rylen Jones said.
Students from U.S. Grant's Audio-Visual Television Production Academy were also part of the tour group. Lt. Col. Damon Wells, outreach director for the commander's planning group, said there were about 55 students accompanied by 14 adults, to include instructors, counselors, principals, and one parent.
Sgt. Benjamin Vanburen of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 30th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade, has been a combat medic for the entire 12 years he's been in the Army, and he introduced the students to what his profession is all about.
Vanburen said the students who traveled here are either JROTC students or looking into the program, and it was hoped their visit would sway them to join the military.
"We always need more help. Medics are always needed in the Army -- any branch of the military, really -- and it's a great background," the sergeant said. "Veterans as a whole seem to have a little better work ethic when we learn things as a group and then we get out and it's easier for us on a team, it's easier for us to work with people we don't know.
"And it gives you a little bit of pride, and a feeling of patriotism in yourself, to know that you did this."
Vanburen said that while at Fort Sill the high schoolers learned about tourniquets and emergency trauma bandages, how to stop initial trauma, and once those interventions are done, how to move casualties using a couple of methods that are easy for one or two people.
When asked how important it is to know this in the Army, Vanburen said that over the last 12 years, he's been on two combat deployments, and when he's treated casualties, he's had to move the injured troops multiple times, plus use multiple different types of interventions. He always had to make sure he moved the patient in the appropriate manner to keep the intervention going the way it needs to be done.
"For me, it's extremely fulfilling" to be a combat medic, Vanburen said. "The whole reason I joined the Army and became a medic by choice was because my brother was hurt in 2003."
That was during the first rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The medic there was the one who made sure he made it back home to my family. So for me, it was a huge deal. So for me, it's kind of like paying back for what they did for my brother," he said.
His brother, Sgt. Matthew Vanburen, left the Army in 2013 because, due to the extent of his injuries, his body couldn't handle the stress of the life any more. But he's been able to work in the civilian world, and right now he's in college studying to be a computer programmer.
D.J. Bowker, business industry career development coordinator in Oklahoma City Public Schools' college/career readiness department, said students from the two academies were here to experience what health and audio-visual television production careers can look like, especially in the military. They also learned about the advantages of working with the military.
"They get to see things here they don't see anywhere else," she said. "Here we would see what the simulators look like, and then go behind and see how they built them, and what it takes to produce them and work in the production for this. It's a great learning experience."
Stops on the tour included the Call for Fire Trainer in Jared Monti Hall, the hands-on intro to being a combat medic on the lawn of Wilburt Brown Hall, the Close Air Support Dome inside Patterson Hall where air defenders are trained on the shoulder-fired Stinger MANPADS (man-portable air defense system), and Reynolds Army Health Clinic. Wells said they had some interaction with Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, and received Meal, Ready to Eat for lunch.
Sgt. 1st Class Mark Mizell is chief instructor with B Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, for the 13 Fox joint fire support specialists. This advanced individual training class teaches enlisted Soldiers how to be forward observers and call in targets to a fire direction center.
Mizell showed the high school sophomores how to locate a target and call in a fire mission using a wraparound screen in the simulations center. The screen depicted a view from the top of Mount Scott, looking south over Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area (LETRA) and to the west.
"We have multiple targets for students to be able to engage, using polar and 'fire for effect' methods of target location," Mizell explained.
Their intermediary is the fire direction center, which turns the information the forward observers provide into information that's understandable for the guns to be able to shoot.
Mizell said approximately 40-60 13 Fox classes come through the Field Artillery School in a year's time, and each class has 30 students on average. Each class fires around 800 simulated rounds, which gives students the practice they need without the cost of expending live rounds.
Rylen Jones, a sophomore at The Health Academy, said she was in JROTC last year but not this year. This was her first time to make the trip to Fort Sill, and she said she wanted to see what it's like here and the medical facilities at Reynolds.