Without regard to its appearance, Soldiers must be ready and capable to conduct the full range of military operations to defeat all enemies regardless of the threats they pose.
According to a 2010 public health report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, “Influenza and pneumonia killed more American Soldiers and Sailors during the war [WWI] than did enemy weapons.” The pandemic was said to have traveled with military personnel from camp-to-camp and across the Atlantic at the height of WWI, September through November 1918, infecting up to 40 percent of Soldiers and Sailors. In this instance, the enemy came in the form of a communicable disease.
Preventative measures and risk mitigation work to impede history from repeating itself, keeping the Army both ready and resilient.
One such preventative measure implemented in Jordan was a week-long Field Sanitation Team (FST) Certification Course held from Dec. 9 to Dec.13, 2019 at Joint Training Center-Jordan.
Leading the way was U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski, with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” who has been an Army preventative medicine specialist (68S) for more than seven years. According to Kolenski, 68Ss and FSTs are there to help create an environment that mitigates unnecessary damage to a Soldier’s health, allowing them to focus on their job and mission accomplishment.
Army regulations require certain units to be equipped with a FST, preferably a combat medic (68W), but any military occupational specialty can fill this position. The 40-hour certification covered areas such as improvised sanitary devices, testing water quality, identifying appropriate food storage areas, placement of restrooms, controlling communicable diseases, proper waste disposal, dealing with toxic industrial materials and combating insect-borne diseases.
The course’s goal was to, “Enable Soldiers to maintain combat readiness and effectiveness by implementing controls to mitigate DNBI [disease non-battle injury],” said Kolenski.
He explained that environmental testing and figuring out how to mitigate problems, before they start, helps to drastically decrease DNBIs. These injuries can include heat stroke, frost bite, trench foot, malnutrition, diarrheal disease, basically anything that can take a service member out of the fight. Sometimes huge risk mitigation can come from a simple task, such as hand washing…or taking out the trash.
“If you reduce the trash, you’ll mitigate the flies, which reduces the chance that you’ll get a gastrointestinal issue,” explained Kolenski, “Because you can’t fight if you’re in the latrine [restroom].”
Exposure pathways, modes to be exposed to something harmful, are examined to identify hazards and then develop controls. This is accomplished through the sampling of air, water, bacteria, pH levels, chlorine residual in water and bugs in the area. Comprehensive reviews of base safety are updated constantly with potential hazards and mitigation techniques.
Attending the class was U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, who serves as a combat medic here at JTC-J. This was her first time attending a FST Course, but she said the instructors made the information fun to learn.
“It was interesting to lean about the different standards for food facilities and rules on preparation of the food,’ said Vermeulen, “Also testing the water for chlorine.”