The Bayonet

Tuesday, Jul. 01, 2014

Medical detachment returns home

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Soldiers of the 926th Medical Detachment (Preventative Medicine) arrived June 23 at Lawson Army Airfield to reunite with their Families after a nine-month deployment.

The 13-member unit provided support for five regional commands in Afghanistan.

Duties included sanitary inspections, industrial hygiene, epidemiological support, air, water and soil sampling and pest management for deployed units spread across large areas of operation.

The 926th last deployed in support of Operation New Dawn from 2010-2011. Noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Judy Betancourt, said the unit also taught field sanitation classes to Soldiers.

"It was a very big mission for the 926th to handle and, of course, we did it very well," she said. "Because we are downsizing the mission in Afghanistan, more people need to be able to handle field sanitation, so they are responsible for their units dealing with preventable injuries and to educate their troops. It's important that as we are leaving Afghanistan that base camp assessments are done to make sure it is the way it was before we started maneuvering 13 years ago."

Unit commander, Maj. Scott Vial, took command of the unit just 88 days before they deployed to Afghanistan in October. He said the unit relied on junior NCOs to plan their own missions, as well as air and ground movements.

"All of our movements in Kabul were ground movements, which is unusual at this point in time, but we did 60 ground movements, which is more than any other units in our task force by far," Vial said. "We had tremendous staff sergeants who helped to make this mission happen. We just gave them intent and purpose and they accomplished the mission."

Betancourt said despite their large responsibilities, the unit maintained motivation, endurance and overall professionalism throughout the deployment.

"We gave them the authoritative power to take on the team operations and we supported them for that," Betancourt said. "We had a lot of first-time deployers and junior enlisted Soldiers who were given big responsibilities. We had to trust in their abilities to do the right thing and make sure their procedures and their people were safe."

Support from Family members, friends and the 14th Combat Support Hospital made adjusting to life back home successful for Soldiers, Betancourt said.

"We came from a combat zone being on our toes 24/7, so it takes an adjustment coming back to this environment where we can get food anytime we want, wear civilian attire and spend time with our Families, but we have verbalized to each other (we need to) give ourselves time to readjust (from a) combat zone to a more garrison environment," she said. "Our commander's wife, Mrs. (Betsy) Vial has been so supportive and has done an important job making sure our Family members within the detachment know what's going on."

Preventive Medicine's Spc. Amy Holecek said seeing her daughter for the first time after nine months was one of the best moments of her life and made the duty to protect her country worthwhile.

"To remain focused, everyone made good use of Skype and Facetime with our children and Families back home and opened communication with each other," she said. "It's hard leaving our Family, but you feel a sense of pride and purpose by helping your country. My daughter is 15 months old, and I hope one day she is proud of me and understands why I did it."

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