JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
After getting a rotor-washed view of a full-scale demonstration of a battlefield air medical evacuation, Army community partners sprang up into the helicopter cockpit, one by one, eagerly posing behind the controls at the pilot's seat.
It's a unique perspective U.S. Army leaders believe these 10 private-sector leaders, who represent a few of the nation's leading medical organizations and prominent universities, will take with them to raise awareness of Army medicine capabilities and potentially open more doors for Army medical recruiters.
The demonstration, performed here on MacArthur Parade Field Jan. 4, was part of the Army Medicine Experience. It's an experience that proved to be an eye-opening lesson for community partners, especially for first-time visitors to a military installation, in that it revealed more about how little they previously knew about this aspect of the Army.
"My perception of Army medicine was ill-informed," admitted Dr. Wanda Filer, board chair and past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "I didn't understand the opportunities. I didn't understand the camaraderie and level of excellence that I've gleaned over these last few days. I'm going to tell the world that Army medicine is world-class, and their innovations have changed American healthcare across centuries."
Those are welcomed words to leaders like Lt. Gen. Nadja West, U.S. Army Surgeon General and commander of U.S. Army Medical Command, who hosted the diverse group.
"Army medicine is the nation's gold standard for synchronized garrison care and for sustained expeditionary healthcare," said West, addressing the group during the opening-day breakfast. "There's no one really on the face of the earth who can do both and integrate both the way we do in Army medicine. We rely on our civilian (educational) institutions and our professional associations such as those you represent here today. You train, you educate, and you set the professional standards to which we hold our medical professionals and our training centers."
This marks the sixth year U.S. Army Recruiting Command and U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade leaders have orchestrated the Army Medicine Experience. The goal is simple -- expose influential members of the civilian medical community to the highly-trained military professionals who make up AMEDD and showcase the myriad of capabilities they use in support of Army warfighters, said Lt. Col. Jeff Reibestein, MRB executive officer.
West appealed directly to community partners, confident they would be onboard after getting this first-hand experience.
"That's our purpose today -- to make sure that we provide that perspective of what the Army does for our nation from the Army medicine point of view," she said. "So, once you've seen Army medicine in action, we hope that you will partner with us and become advocates for a career in Army medicine in your universities, your professional associations, your organizations, and in your communities."
With pyro explosions and colored smoke billowing across the parade field as the medical evacuation helicopter swooped in near the forward surgical team's mobile facility, the demonstration did more than make a visual splash. It displayed the wide-ranging skills and coordination that is the hallmark of Army medicine.
"It's amazing," said Benny Belvin, associate director of career services at Harvard University. He said he found the camaraderie fostered in the military to be as equally relevant as the potential as a medical career.
"There's a lot of (career) opportunities and options," Belvin added. "I think students at my institution aren't aware of what's available (in Army medicine). So, whether you are a physician, a veterinarian, or a researcher, or even a specialist in emergency medicine, there are a lot of paths you can choose to go into."
In addition to the demonstration, community partners toured Brooke Army Medical Center, the Center for the Intrepid, and the AMEDD Museum, where they peppered staff and subject-matter experts with questions.
While planners definitely intended to tout the Army's cutting-edge medical technology and treatment facilities, Reibestein said the human element is at the core of the experience. He stressed the importance of fostering a connection between community partners and the AMEDD professionals behind the hospital scrubs.
"These folks are dedicated to their patients; they are dedicated to the reason we all go into healthcare," said Filer, a practicing family physician for more than 25 years. "I can't imagine a nobler career ... What I've seen over these last two days has been inspiring. It's been reaffirming about my country, about the level of commitment and professionalism of the Army Medical Corps."