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National Guard medical liaisons care for wounded
By Sgt. 1st Class Brenda Benner, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Dec 20, 2007 - 1:18:38 PM
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Blackanthem Military News
Master Sgt. George Russell (right) of Hoxie, Ark. gives a hospital tour to the 36th Infantry Division's commander, Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga (far left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy L. Broyles. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brenda Benner, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard)
LANDSTUHL, Germany - Imagine arriving at a hospital during the winter with nothing but a T-shirt and shorts to wear. If you are one of the unfortunate few, you have only blankets covering you on the gurney. You have no identification, no money and no personal belongings of any type. Worst yet, you don't have that precious little book of phone numbers for your family and friends.

A small percentage of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen arriving for advanced medical care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) are in such a dire predicament, but a team of medical liaisons is there for the sole purpose of assisting in every way possible.
Arkansas Army National Guard Master Sgt. George Russell, of Hoxie, Ark., is one of such liaisons at the LRMC. During the past two years he has greeted many fellow Guard members -- some arriving on gurneys or in wheelchairs -- from their medical evacuation flights from the Middle East.

According to Russell, approximately 25 percent of the National Guard patients he encounters are battle wounded. Others, who are experiencing wounds or illnesses not treatable at their duty locations, come from all over the world for LRMC's first-class medical care.

The master sergeant explained that the many logistical and medical circumstances concerning a troop's injuries down range, their subsequent treatment locations, and the various time factors involved determine their individual arrival status.

Sergeant Russell, who has been a medic and a licensed practical nurse for 36 years, said his current assignment as a medical liaison is "the best job the Army has ever given me." Prior to his Germany assignment, he was with the North Little Rock-based Medical Detachment, State Area Command.

"I meet the Guard patients as soon as they get off the bus or ambulance," said Sergeant Russell. "I let them know that we're here to help them solve their issues so they can put all of their concentration on getting better. We'll help with getting new uniforms, their pay issues, any business with their home units … just about anything they need. We also make sure they make it to their doctor appointments, lab tests, x-rays and other procedures."

That alone is a great help as travel-weary patients negotiate more than three miles of hallways branching in all directions inside one of the U.S. military's largest medical facilities.

Another medical liaison helping patients through the system is Nevada Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Ilda Cruz from Reno. A medic for the past eight years, Sergeant Cruz is new to her liaison position at the hospital. She said she can already tell that she enjoys the assignment.

"I take them to the chaplain's closet so they can pick out a few warm clothes to wear instead of their hospital gowns," Sergeant Cruz explained. "It gives me a good feeling to help lower their stress levels by settling their clothing and hygiene needs. After that, we can work on things such as pay problems and other paperwork."

Sgt. Devon Hand, of the Missouri Army National Guard's 129th Field Artillery, is a new patient at the LRMC who just arrived from Afghanistan. Since he is totally mobile, he has volunteered to help the medical liaisons, citing what a great help they've been since his arrival.

"I want to give back because the staff here at Landstuhl is great," Sergeant Hand explained. "I thought I'd give then an extra hand - literally. Besides, this way I can be with more of the troops every day while I'm waiting on my status."

It's clear while talking with Sergeant Hand that he is anxiously waiting for the opportunity to catch the next plane to Afghanistan.

Sergeant Russell said he is inspired daily by the commitment his fellow National Guard members show toward their missions and to their unit members down range.

"I'd say about 95 percent of them beg the doctors to give them clearance to go back to the theater and join their buddies," said Sergeant Russell. "They don't want to let them down with their absence. I tell them to worry about their own health situation first … to concentrate on getting better, and then they can return to duty when it's time."

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