By Capt. Amy B. SlinkerAugust 18, 2010
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (Army News Service, Aug. 18, 2010) -- Three Alaska National Guard members are providing medical support for U.S. and Mongolian troops during Khaan Quest 2010, a bilateral peacekeeping operations training exercise in Ulaanbaatar and Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia, Aug. 8-29.
Lt. Col. Rebecca Young, a nurse practitioner from the Alaska Army National Guard Medical Detachment, serves as the medical officer for Khaan Quest 2010. She leads a team of two medics; Sgt. Tara Gardner, also a member of the Medical Detachment at Camp Denali, Fort Richardson, Alaska, and Sgt. Edward Antonio of the 297th Military Police Company in Juneau, Alaska.
Gardner is assigned to the command post exercise at Five Hills Training Area outside of Ulaanbaatar, while Antonio provides medical support at the humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) project site in the Songinokhairkhan District 22nd Horoo.
Young travels between the two sites, guiding and supervising the medics while also providing a training environment to further develop their skills. The team primarily supports U.S. Soldiers, but has also treated U.S. exercise instructors and support staff, Mongolian Armed Forces servicemembers, and Mongolian civilian support staff. They are working in conjunction with a Mongolian civilian doctor and a psychiatrist from Singapore.
Upon arrival in Mongolia, the team established urgent care protocol and a sick call area at each site. They evaluated each environment and conducted health and welfare checks of U.S. and Mongolian personnel.
"We got an idea of who is here and identified any chronic conditions," said Young. "We watch them [U.S. and Mongolian personnel] in all of their environments - we observe work areas, eat in the same dining hall and sleep in the same quarters so that we continuously assess for any risks."
Antonio is attached to the 797th Engineer Company (Vertical), U.S. Army Reserve, from Barrigada, Guam. U.S. Army and Mongolian Armed Forces engineers, carpentry masons, electricians, plumbers and laborers are constructing a public bath house facility as a humanitarian and civic assistance project. Antonio works with U.S. and Mongolian leadership on site to ensure that safety briefings are conducted daily and servicemembers continuously watch for safety hazards.
He credits his North American rescue emergency medical technician kit as one of his biggest assets for treating patients with eye, nose and throat ailments on the construction site. Some of the other cases he has seen include minor lacerations and dehydration.
Antonio expressed that the most fulfilling aspect of his mission has been the opportunity to treat Mongolian Armed Forces soldiers. He conducted a prenatal consultation through a translator, and identified a cataract in a 54-year-old Mongolian soldier's eyes.
"It's an honor to have the Mongolian Armed Forces trust us," said Antonio. "We built a rapport so that if any of their soldiers need attention, they come to us. The experience of treating soldiers from other countries is a unique opportunity."
At Five Hills Training Area, Young and Gardner treated Mongolian Armed Forces 1st Lt. Tuvshinjargal Mangal for an eye infection. Young noted that by providing a conveniently located sick call area, she and Gardner were accessible to provide care.
"I asked for help from the American doctor," said Mangal. "She gave me some eye drops; I used it and now my eyes are getting better."
All three of the Alaska National Guard medical support team members have civilian careers in the medical field.
Young serves three roles as a family nurse practitioner; she has a practice at Valley Medical Care in Juneau, contracts through Juneau Emergency Medical Association to provide care at the emergency room at Bartlett Hospital and flies medical evacuation with Airlift Northwest. She often crosses paths with Antonio, who is an emergency medical technician in the Bartlett Regional Hospital chemical dependency unit.
Gardner works as a medical assistant for Dr. John K. Botson at Orthopedic Physicians Anchorage.
"It's a little more clinical on my civilian side and here it's a lot more field medicine," said Gardner. "It's always fun to switch back and forth and get the best of both."
Gardner explained that medics are required to hold national certification as emergency medical technicians, which she feels makes Guardsmen more employable in civilian medical fields.
This week, Gardner will leave Five Hills Training Area to join other Alaska National Guard and Mongolian Armed Forces members to participate in a medical readiness training exercise. They will provide medical and dental care, as well as veterinary services for the Mongolian people living in rural Omnogobi Aimag. During the exercise, the Guardsmen and Mongolian medical personnel will exchange ideas and techniques while gaining experience with providing care in remote and austere environments.
Besides the command post exercise, humanitarian and civic assistance project and medical readiness training exercise, a Senior Leadership Conference will also be held this week concurrent with Khaan Quest 2010. In addition to U.S. and Mongolian military units, observers from other countries in the Pacific region are involved in the events. Exercise Khaan Quest and related events cultivate readiness and interoperability of participating military forces while developing interpersonal relations.