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Minnesota National Guard
Preventive Medicine Team ensures health of multinational force

Minnesota National Guard EL GORAH, Egypt -- Soldiers deployed to austere environments have a lot to worry about Whether it's about their families back home or the safety of their battle buddies serving beside them, these Soldiers have very little time to focus on the underlying hazards which lurk in the water and food they consume

Although this is true for many deployed units, the same cannot be said for Soldiers of Task Force Sinai, who, thanks to a three-man preventive medicine team, can accomplish their mission every day without having to worry about these hazards

"Disease and non-battle injuries pose the greatest threat this day and age as much as they have during any period of history," said Staff Sgt Michelle Nix, the Preventive Medicine non-commissioned officer in charge for the 1st Support Battalion, Task Force Sinai "Our job is important because we understand how easily a vast number of people can be affected by disease and environmental hazards and by ensuring the health of the force, it allows for mission readiness and ultimately mission success throughout the entire Multinational Force and Observers"

To help identify, treat and ultimately eliminate potential hazards before they become a widespread issue, Nix and her team travel to every remote outpost and camp occupied by members of the MFO
 
During their visits, they test water sources for bacteriological contamination, conduct sanitation inspections of facilities such as the dining facilities, barbershops and gyms while also evaluating air quality and hearing conservation

"Our job concerns a wide spectrum of public health," said Nix, a Royalton, Minnesota, native "We keep people happy, healthy and fit to live their daily lives with no risk to their well-being by doing these inspections, surveys and laboratory tests"

Keeping everyone happy, healthy and fit in an organization as large as the MFO, which is currently home to 14 separate nations, spread out across the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, is not an easy task for Nix and her understaffed team

"Like any job it can be challenging there is a lot to master in this field, so we're constantly learning and developing both as individuals and as a team and with every new experience there is a sense of accomplishment and growth," said Nix

Although challenging, Nix said her team's mission also has its rewards

"Finding the source of an outbreak, stopping a chain of infection and preventing additional cases can be challenging, but it's also rewarding knowing you had a positive impact on someone's well-being," said the Army veteran of 11 years

With new hazards presenting themselves almost daily, Nix and her team must constantly adapt their standard operating procedures to fit the environment and its newest threats To accomplish this mission, the team has taken a student-like approach
 
"It is essential for us to actively seek additional knowledge and take advantage of any available training opportunity if we are to prevent complacency and be proficient in our duties," said Nix

"Continuous education is essential in order for us to remain on top of our field of work," said Spc Harrison Thao, a preventive medicine specialist "Sometimes, we may not know whether or not something violates a public health regulation, and by reading up on the appropriate references, we can determine what actions need to be taken"

By being proactive and staying up to date with the latest scientific practices and preventive medicine measures, Thao and his team have kept the force healthy

"By successfully completing our surveys, quality checks and assessments the Soldiers and people in the MFO can continue on with daily activities and complete the mission without having to concern themselves with environmental or health-related problems," said Thao

Although both Nix and Thao know their work will never truly be complete they both said they find consolation in knowing they're making a potential life-saving difference in the lives of the multinational peacekeepers that call the MFO home

Tuesday, December 12, 2014
Story and photos by Sgt Thomas Duval
Task Force Sinai




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