TF NORCAL

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In September 2019, I was promoted out of the 7451 Medical Battalion into the 3-414th REGT (CST). Not a big change in location since they are both located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but a refreshing change in experiences from my previous unit where all Soldiers have similar medical responsibilities and work mostly in troop medical clinics.

My first annual training (AT) with the 3-414th was Task Force NORCAL from October 8th to 12th. I was tasked to be the medic for the range during this mission and the rest of my team were tasked to be the OPFOR (Opposing Force), Tactical Officer/NCO, and evaluators for the Cadets.

This was my first time working with cadets and instructors and it was an awesome learning opportunity to work with Soldiers that have a different MOS. In my previous unit, we did not get to participate in the warrior tasks and training. We served as combat medics during our real-world medical missions and mainly provided medical support for units that were training out in the field.

For example, I was assigned to work at the aid station in the Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) Ward at Fort Hunter Liggett. My team consisted of a nurse officer and a 68C (Licensed Practical Nurse) NCO. We provided first aid and sick call hours for the Soldiers that were in the field. In other unit missions, I was assigned to the Troop Medical Clinic at Fort Hunter Liggett and I worked alongside the civilian clinical staff and the medical officers in my unit. The knowledge that I gained from those assignments were important and did help me become a well-rounded Soldier and medic.

During Task Force NORCAL, I was able to assist with setting up the Tactical Operations Center (TOC), the lanes, and other tasks the schools needed. On the first day of the FTX, I volunteered to help set up the TOC with Capt. Rose (TOC officer). It was my first time and I was glad that I was able to help. Capt. Rose assigned me the task of handing out the radios and giving the call signs to the Tactical officers and OPFOR NCOs so that we could establish communications when they started the training exercises. One of the cadre from the universities had a tent he let us borrow; spacious with room for all our radios, maps, and other supplies, so we were able to set up the TOC inside it. Once we finished setting up the TOC, I helped with keeping accountability for the training weapons, the number of MRE boxes, and ammo that we had on site. When Capt. Rose would step out of the TOC, I manned it answering radio calls from the platoons. I also got a chance to update range control about the number of people that we had, and the number of vehicles on site. It was a great learning opportunity because I practiced skills that I do not always get to use very often.

Being new to the unit, I also got to know my team better during this AT and learned about their civilian and professional lives as well as their military careers. One of the NCOs on my team used to be a drill sergeant and the First Sergeant in a Drill Sergeant unit in Washington. Another NCO on our team was an infantryman and he did an outstanding job with teaching the Cadets warrior tasks, rifle marksmanship skills, and land navigation. And one used to be a career counselor and he also did an excellent job providing mentorship to the Cadets, teaching them land navigation, rifle marksmanship, and battle drills.

I also had a chance to learn about our commander’s college and military experiences. He attended college in California and completed his ROTC there. It was great to see him mentor and give back to the ROTC program by sharing his knowledge and expertise with the young Cadets. The Cadets appeared to appreciate all 3-414th input and advice during our training exercises.

The Cadets were respectful and eager to learn. However, there were some Cadets that still needed to work on their military manners. Overall, the Cadets were open to learning, receiving feedback, and they participated in the training events with enthusiasm. Most of them were excited to be able to meet in-person since COVID put a hold on the training events that were originally planned for this year. Juggling college and the military is challenging but the Cadets persevered and managed to balance their tasks well.

Always a challenge during these missions are the time constraints and the packed schedules that the universities have for the Cadets. Understandably, that this year they wanted to put as much training as possible for the Cadets during the short period of time.

The new way of weapons qualification was particularly difficult because the Cadets did not have as much time to practice and get familiar with the techniques. However, they all adapted and did the best they could, with our knowledgeable cadre providing tips and tricks that the Cadets could utilize during weapons qualification.

While I was at the range, I walked around and checked on Cadets that might have needed medical help. I helped treat a nosebleed, sprained ankle, foot blisters, and I also assessed a Cadet brought from the field that had exacerbated an old back injury. When I was at the ammo point, the cadre dropped off two Cadets from the field that had injured themselves; one of them sprained their ankle and the other sprained his knee. During the interaction that I had with the Cadet with the knee injury, I learned that he had this injury in the past and he was very knowledgeable about his condition and the treatments he’d had in the past. He knew that he needed help as soon as he felt that his knee was starting to feel unstable. It was good that he sought help before it got worse. I secured his knee with an ACE wrap bandage to prevent further injury. There were a few more Cadets that injured their ankles on the rough terrain in the training lanes. Safety education is very important with the Cadets because many of them are not used to walking in rough terrain which caused most of the sprained injuries that I treated.

This AT was a great learning experience and I felt grateful to have had such an awesome team. It is nice to be in a unit that consists of Soldiers that have different specialties. I want to acknowledge each member of my Task Force NORCAL team for their hard work and dedication to the mission. They did a phenomenal job instructing the cadets and being great mentors for them. Their knowledge and skills were valuable to the mission and helped make the training events flow smoothly.

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