By Sgt. Ryan Twist, 139th MPAD, 13th ESC Public AffairsMay 3, 2010
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Every week, Soldiers with the 260th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion learn lifesaving skills from a truck driver.
Sgt. Sarah R. Christenson, a Combat Lifesaver instructor with the 445th Transportation Company out of Waterloo, Iowa, 260th CSSB, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said she was a registered nurse as a civilian and a truck driver for the Army, but was certified to teach the CLS Course in Iraq in October.
"I am a certified registered nurse on the civilian side," said Christenson, a Jefferson, S.D., native. "They asked who had a medical background because (it is) a requirement to teach CLS."
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey J. Haley, the battalion contracting officers' representative with the 812th Quartermaster Company out of Harlingen, Texas, 260th CSSB, 15th Sust. Bde., 13th ESC and a Mason, Texas, native, was a student of Christenson's and praised her experience.
"It helped out a lot, especially in the classroom," he said. "You could see where she had a passion for it, where she really wanted to teach us, as if maybe we were going to save her life one day."
Christenson said she worked hard to ensure she was the best person to teach the 15th Sust. Bde. how to save lives on the battlefield. Her course allows them to certify, refresh and recertify in CLS skills as needed.
The classes average 15 to 20 Soldiers, said Christenson. Thus far, she said she has helped instruct 21 certification classes and 30 recertification classes. This has helped three units under the 260th CSSB maintain a 100 percent certification rate, and ensured no unit fell below 90 percent certification.
"I like it," she said. "I chose to be a nurse on the civilian side, and on the Army side, I am planning on doing (a career in the medical field)."
Haley said Christenson brought her experience with her.
"She brought examples of what she has seen in the outside world," he said.
Christenson's experiences were not limited to the Army, Haley said. In class, a student asked about child abuse and Christenson provided insight.
"You never know what you're going to run into once you go outside the wire," he said. "They may get used to dealing with their buddies or adults, but that training brought in the kid aspect."
Haley said Christenson did not change the course, but added to it.
"A lot of it is a refresher, but she hit on some other parts rather than the same medical (information) that you go over and over," he said.
Having a passionate instructor allows Soldiers to take the lesson more seriously and still have fun with it, said Haley.
"When she is interested in it, then it makes us interested in it," he said. "You get those instructors who stand up there and go through the motions and the power points and just want to get it done. She got a lot more in depth and really emphasized the main points. It seemed like people learned a lot better from it."
Christenson said she has been in the medical field for 12 years, starting at a nursing home. Most of her family works in the medical field as well.
"I have been in the medical field since I was 14 years old," she said. "It is easy for me to talk to people about medicine because it is my passion in life."
Christenson said she enjoys the opportunity to teach Soldiers.
"I think everybody needs that general baseline knowledge," she said. "It's so important to me because I don't want a Soldier coming back saying, 'I couldn't do it because no one told me (how).'"
Christenson said she first realized she was making a difference when a Soldier who had taken her class came back and told her that he had used what she taught him.
"I'm not worried about saving anybody else's life, because I know that I can," she said. "I'm worried about everybody else, if I'm the one hurt. That is why I do what I do."