By Marcy SanchezJuly 3, 2019
In 2014, Nicholas Guerra enlisted in the U.S. Army with the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 92W, water treatment specialist. After four years of service, Guerra switched positions into the health care field and distinguished himself as the first laboratory technician to graduate the second phase of instruction for the MOS at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, July 2.
The graduation also marks the first time an enlisted Soldier completes their course of study at an U.S. Military Treatment Facility in a foreign country.
"(The course) has been a process," said Sgt. 1st Class Dominique Newsome, clinical coordinator for the Laboratory Technician Phase II course at LRMC. "Leaders had a vision and put together all the requirements for us to be established as a Phase II site."
Prerequisites for attending the course at LRMC deviated from usual requirements at other MTFs as potential candidates needed to demonstrate abilities only gained through years of serving.
"When (students) come here as prior-service Service Members, you don't have to seclude them as much as you would an initial-entry Soldier," said Newsome. "Prior-service members are familiar with how the military works, they know the regulations, and they know what they need to do as Soldiers."
By limiting an overseas training opportunity to Soldiers changing an MOS or transferring from other military branches, the LRMC instructors can focus more on proficiency.
"It gives them a different experience," said Lt. Col. Donald Johnston, chief, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services. "Soldiers are still training in an American hospital, but they'll get a cultural experience they would never get anywhere else."
For Guerra, a San Antonio native, earning the MOS was a goal coming to fruition, with the training he received at LRMC an added bonus.
"I thought if I ever traveled out of the country it would be a deployment, not to get trained in something I wanted to do," said Guerra. "There's a culture shock. You meet a lot of different people and it's definitely an opportunity you don't get in the states."
Although training at LRMC didn't manage to dismiss Guerra from the traditional uniform inspection and physical training requirements, the diverse scope of practice at LRMC provided an added value. During the six-month long period of instruction, chemistry, hematology, urology, transfusion services, serology and immunology, and microbiology were drilled in Guerra's learning and eventually lead to successfully attaining a national certification in laboratory services.
"I really do enjoy doing this job so I might be doing this for a while," said the former water treatment specialist, who is already eyeing his next certification.
The unique position of LRMC, as the only forward-stationed medical center for U.S. and Coalition forces, as well as the large footprint the medical center entails, has prepared Guerra for his next duty station. LRMC also hopes to welcome more Soldiers in training to develop a premiere medical learning institution.
"If someone is injured downrange or in another region overseas, LRMC is the first point they get to before they are able to receive long term care stateside," said Newsome. "We have a lot of trauma. (Soldiers) can see things here that they wouldn't be able to at other Military Treatment Facilities."
The course is a stepping stone for learning opportunities at LRMC, with aims to open its doors to other health care MOS training in the future.