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NEWS | Jan. 16, 2014

METC Preventive medicine: Soldiers and Sailors keeping service members healthy

By Lori Newman JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs

Preventive medicine personnel in the military may spend their day testing water to make sure it's safe to drink, controlling an infestation of cockroaches or making sure field kitchens are sanitary.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Schram, a student in the preventive medicine program at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, said he chose preventive medicine because it affects everyone on a military installation.

"You have to work with a lot of people and have points of contact throughout the base to do your job successfully," he said.

Soldiers and Sailors attend METC training to master the myriad skills needed to become a preventive medicine specialist/technician.

The training is four months long for Army and six months for Navy students.

The first 11 weeks of the program is consolidated. After that, the students break into service-specific tracks where they learn the requirements for preventive medicine personnel in the Army and Navy.

The consolidated training includes an introduction to preventive medicine, operational preventive medicine, food service sanitation, water safety, entomology and the deployment environmental surveillance program.

During the entomology portion of the course, students go out to Salado Creek on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston to practice what they have learned. They are then given different scenarios such as an outbreak of malaria or an infestation of cockroaches. The students must work together to address the problems presented and find solutions based on what they have learned.

At the end of the exercise, the students give a brief of their findings and solutions to the class and instructor.

"The students have to put everything together and it tends to make more sense to them when they are done," said Maj. Michelle Colacicco-Mayhugh, Army service lead.
"Once students complete the entomology course, they receive certification as Department of Defense pesticide applicators, which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency."

The students also receive the ServSafe manager certification from the National Restaurant Association after completing the food service sanitation course. The Army students also receive a certificate of completion for basic industrial hygiene from the Army Medical Department Center and School and the Navy students receive shipboard sanitation certification.

During the Army-specific portion of the training, Soldiers take classes in health physics, basic industrial hygiene and complete a capstone situational training exercise. The exercise requires the Army students to put together everything they have learned to address specific preventive medicine issues in a given scenario.

During the Navy-specific portion of the training, Sailors take classes in communications, statistics, epidemiology, microbiology, parasitology, occupational safety and health, environmental sanitation, public health administration, shipboard sanitation and complete a capstone exercise.

"Most of the course is didactic because there is a lot the students have to learn, but in every sub-portion of the course, there is some amount of hands-on training," explained Colacicco-Mayhugh.

Army Spc. Marcos Ramirez said he chose the preventive medicine program because he wanted to learn a new skill that he could apply in the Army and in the civilian sector as well.

"I've been thinking about becoming an industrial hygienist to enforce (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) laws," Ramirez said. "That's what I plan to do after I leave the Army."

Both Schram and Ramirez agree that water safety is very interesting.

"I didn't know there was that much to learn about water to keep the community and the environment safe," Schram said.

"Making sure Soldiers get water that isn't contaminated is a really important part of staying healthy in the field," Ramirez agreed.

"The fundamental job they take with them when they leave here is to make sure the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines they are working with are healthy so they can accomplish their missions," Colacicco-Mayhugh said.