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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

144th ASMC and Iraq... Part One

The 144th Area Support Medical Company was stood up sometime in early 2005.  There were rumblings across the Utah Army National Guard medical community about a new ambulance unit being put together, something that was most likely a direct result of a need in this new century and what would be greater than a decade of warfare for our military community.  My first encounter with the 144th was in Nicaragua, the unit was sent down there for New Horizons 2005, a mission to build schools and provide medical care to some of the more remote areas in Nicaragua.  Engineer and medical units spent time down in the rural areas in over several months constructing schools and treating locals for various medical issues. 

The 144th rotated it's soldiers through the camp placed next to a Nicaraguan military compound in two week rotations for the most part, some of it's soldiers may have spent the entire time down there which was between 3 and 6 months.  The time frame they were there escapes me now, but irregardless, they were there providing medical support for the supporting units of the mission.  I went down with a contingent of soldiers from Utah's Medical Command to provide the treatment for the locals.  It was a great opportunity which I touch on in my book, and it was great getting to work with those soldiers whom I had grown to respect and bond with in the Medical Command.  At the end of our two weeks in which we treated over two-thousand Nicaraguans we spent two days at an all inclusive Pacific coast resort.  While there I spent some time on the beach, it was empty, not what I am used to back in the states, and then visited one active,one dormant volcano, and then did some shopping for my wife and kids at a marketplace in a local town.  It was a beautiful country, but they certainly do not live like us, or have the luxuries we do.  Unfortunately I don't think many Americans realize how lucky they are to live in this country, with the freedoms, and the comforts that are afforded us.  Even on the worst day for an American, there is someone worse off in the world. 

We returned to Utah happy with what we accomplished as a group in Nicaragua.  It was shortly after we returned home that the news about the 144th activation spread through the Utah Army National Guard.  They would be going to Iraq, and they would need our unit to back fill their empty slots.  I didn't think they would need a Staff Sergeant, the higher you climb in the ranks, especially in the National Guard, the less spots there are for you to serve in.  Eventually there is an bottleneck effect at the top and some individuals may stay in the same position for years and years before promotion opportunity arrives unless they are willing to transfer units or change specialties.  The details of how I ended up transferring to the 144th for their deployment to Iraq are well established in "Combat Support; The True Burden Of Sacrifice," so I will not repeat them here, but it is certainly worth picking up the book and reading, especially considering my wife was pregnant with our fourth child and MSG Rackham (mentioned in previous blog post) made all his Staff Sergeants exempt from the deployment due to our "essential-ness" to the Medical Command mission. Most in my situation would not have made the choices I did, but I did what I thought I needed to do at the time and would do it again if given the same circumstances.

One thing that was certain, I was headed to Iraq, as a member of the 144th Area Support Medical Company.

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