Crouching before whirling helicopter blades in full combat gear, Kevin Zuniga prepared to rush a simulated casualty into the waiting aircraft.
Wafting colored smoke marked Miesau Army Depot’s landing zone, as Zuniga joined 212th Combat Support Hospital Soldiers to rush their patient onboard. Zuniga, a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet from Texas A&M International University, said summer training sharpens skills he’ll need as an Army officer.
“Every experience you get is going to shape you as a leader,” Zuniga said. “This one has been amazing.”
Army units throughout the KMC hosted dozens of ROTC cadets from stateside universities this summer. The cadets learned firsthand how Army units work and how leaders conduct themselves — valuable tools for their future.
“I’m more confident going to my unit after I graduate knowing that I have a little bit of experience in a real unit, rather than just straight out of ROTC,” said Claire Marlow, a cadet from the University of Washington, one of eight ROTC cadets hosted by the 212th CSH.
During Cadet Troop Leader Training, cadets shadow Army officers and lead Soldiers through a variety of situations. On Aug. 2, the 212th CSH enlisted the help of Company C, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, a medical evacuation helicopter unit based nearby at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Landstuhl heliport, to show cadets how to evacuate wounded troops from the battlefield.
“Afterward, one of the cadets had the opportunity to come with us to train in a simulator in Illesheim and participate with an instructor pilot,” said Capt. Michael Chase, the Company C operations officer.
At the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 42 cadets served as platoon leaders in non-deploying battalions of the 18th Engineer, 18th Military Police and 16th Sustainment Brigades. During their stay, they also had a unique opportunity — a meeting with the 21st TSC commanding general, Maj. Gen. Aundre F. Piggee, who hosted command orientations that included his leadership and command philosophy. He held a question-and-answer session themed, “What cadets would like to know about the Army from Major General Piggee and staff,” followed by a luncheon where cadets had a chance to speak one on one with the commander.
At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, 10 future Army nurses treated wounded warriors — putting their academic skills to work in a hands-on setting. LRMC is a desired location for the Nurse Summer Training Program, a 120-hour clinical internship offered to cadets before their senior year of nursing school. Each year, hundreds of nurse cadets compete for the opportunity.
Stephanie Savino, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said her interest in the military began in high school. But during her freshman year in college she decided on a medical career.
At LRMC, Savino worked on the intensive care unit and medical-surgical wards. She drew blood, started intravenous fluids, administered medications and set up heart monitors. Savino, who attends Carson-Newman College in Tennessee, also trained at the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Ramstein Air Base, helping transfer wounded warriors from ambulance buses to aircraft.
“This experience has been an essential piece to my future career as an officer and a nurse,” Savino said. “The training I have received here cannot be replaced. I learned not only about ways to improve my nursing skills but also about leadership in nursing and what it will be like just starting off as a second lieutenant.”
While at Ramstein High School, Matthew Turnbull was exposed to work at LRMC’s anesthesia department. That experience made him realize how nurses make a difference in people’s lives, he said. Turnbull, who attends the University of New Hampshire’s nursing program, recently worked in ICU with troops wounded in combat and now hopes to become a critical care nurse.
“Overall it’s been a very humbling and rewarding experience to be able to help take care of wounded service members from Afghanistan,” Turnbull said.
For Zuniga, evacuating simulated casualties was unlike anything his family or friends did this summer. Training in the KMC is an experience he will take with him for years to come.
“The Army has made a great investment in paying to send cadets to CTLT,” said Zuniga. “If the budget changes, this is a program that needs to be kept.”
Sgt. 1st Class Randall Jackson, 30th Medical Command, Mike Bowers, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, and Chuck Roberts, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, contributed to this report.