By Ms. Michelle Thum (Regional Health Command Europe)March 19, 2019
LANDSTUHL, Germany - - Sgt. Young Kwon joined the U.S. Army six years ago to find a purpose in life. Now he's stationed in Landstuhl, Germany, and works as a noncommissioned officer in charge of Health Physics Division for Public Health Command Europe helping to keep warfighters in the fight.
Kwon was born and raised in South Korea until his family moved to Diamond Bar, California, when he was 15 years old. Coming from a strict Korean family, his father encouraged him to join the military to gain structure and to find a direction for his life.
"My father, who passed away about six years ago, always thought that I was lacking discipline," Kwon said. "He was brought up in a very traditional way and felt like I didn't achieve much in my life. He was very pleased when I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2013. He felt like serving in the Military was very honorable."
Kwon enlisted in the U.S. Army to give back to the new country he called home and to be part of something bigger.
It was after Advanced Individual Training when his Korean heritage led him to his future in the Army.
"At my first duty station, Fort Hood [Texas], I was lucky enough to run into a fellow Korean Soldier who introduced me to my current job field," Kwon said.
The meeting of the two Soldiers was just luck, according to Sgt. Kwon, who says he approached Staff Sgt. Daeweon Kim, who is currently the NCOIC of Health Physics at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii, while at a doctor's appointment because he had not yet met many other Koreans in the Army.
As luck would have it, the NCO was also a preventive medicine specialist, but with a Health Physics additional skill identifier.
"I found this job field very intriguing and was able to shadow him for a month and a half," Kwon said. "This is how I ended up in health physics."
As a Health Physics specialist, Kwon is responsible for providing radiation protection and consultation on radiological issues.
If an incident occurs, such as a spill of a radioactive source, the health physics team gets notified and performs a contamination survey by taking samples and investigating them.
"After identifying the problem, we mitigate it by either blocking the source from leaking or calling a 'clean up team' that cleans the site of radiation." Kwon explained. "In addition, we work closely with the on-scene commander and local medical officials to inform the community about potential hazards."
In clinical settings, Kwon provides radiography surveys to ensure the radiation output of the radiographs reflect the expected characteristics, so the patients receive the appropriate amount of exposure.
Kwon said his current duty station in Germany allows for unique assignments with great opportunities. His area of operations reach from Europe to Africa and to the Middle East.
He also said that Germany's central location in Europe provides numerous chances to work closely with NATO partners and allies.
"The U.S. Army itself is strong, but with its allies it's even stronger," Kwon said.
In particular, Kwon and his team participated in the Vigorous Warrior and Saber Strike exercises alongside NATO allies and partner nation counterparts.
Vigorous Warrior is a joint medical exercise operated by NATO nations. During these exercises, Health Physics division of PHCE may be activated under their appointed positions on the Radiological Advisory Medical Team and provide radiation guidance and consultation to the medical officials responding to radiological incidents or accidents.
''If we perform our job correctly, we keep the warfighters in the fight and contribute in preventing disease and non-battle injuries."