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Ohio Guard Members deploying to provide medical care to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico

Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden

Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio — t may have been nearly midnight on a dreary, foggy fall evening, but the Soldiers boarding the KC-135 Stratotanker have a spring in their steps. After days of preparation, they are on their way to do what they’ve been training to do and why many of them joined the National Guard — save lives and provide medical care.

More than 30 Soldiers of the 285th Medical Company (Area Support) are deploying to Puerto Rico to augment civilian hospitals currently running on generator power as part of the recovery effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“We volunteered for this mission, we know it’s essential,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Tissue, a health care specialist with the 285th and also a nurse in his civilian career at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus. “We know how important the aid we are bringing is to the people down there. We’re excited for the opportunity to help them get their lives back together and we’ll do the absolute best we can.”

These medical professionals and a chaplain assistant will be joining up with other members of the unit who left Oct. 3 as part of an advanced team to Puerto Rico that has been networking with other units and organizations, preparing a base camp and providing basic medical care. With nearly 10 pallets of medical supplies and equipment following them to Puerto Rico, these Guard members will have enough gear to operate for a week before they need resupplied.

“We’ve been training for this for years, we are ready to go into an austere environment and assist to the maximum of our capability,” said Maj. Bryanna Singleton, commander of the 285th, who said she is excited to be serving a cause greater than herself, but sad to be leaving her husband and 3-month old baby behind. “Every Soldier in the National Guard raised their right hand to help others in need after a disaster and we have a lot of people who want to go and help.”

The unit is set up to provide aid for a variety of medical treatments, including emergency and clinical care, X-rays and laboratory facilities, as well as behavioral health consultations. The majority of these Citizen-Soldiers are traditional, which means they do not wear the uniform on a full-time basis. However, most are swapping out their scrubs for camouflage, as several Soldiers from this company work in the medical field or are working toward a medical degree. Their civilian experience is vast, spanning across several specialties and skill sets from physical therapists and nurses to paramedics and doctors.

“Sixty percent of our unit is in the (civilian) medical field,” Singleton said. “We are able to use those skill sets, ones not just from our MOS (military occupational specialty), but also from the civilian world to maximize our military capabilities, and that is the beauty of the Guard.”
For some of the Soldiers, this is their first experience conducting a National Guard mission in a real-world environment, and for others it is another opportunity to put their training and experience to use, helping and healing fellow citizens.

“I graduated AIT (advanced individual training) on Sept. 19 and found out I was going (to Puerto Rico) three days later,” said Pfc. Scarlett Perkins, a behavioral health specialist with the 285th. “I was shocked at first because I am brand new, but I’m excited because I want to help and it’s great to get this opportunity.”

These Ohio National Guard Soldiers boarded the plane destined for Puerto Rico not only with smiles on their faces and a spring in their steps, but with pride in their hearts knowing they were ready to answer the call to duty.

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