Over the past few weeks you may have noticed several individuals who are wearing rank insignia that seems entirely foreign. Chances are, you have run into a cadet who is current­ly visiting Fort Bragg to get an insider view of Army life before they assume the responsibilities of a second lieutenant. Each cadet em­barked on a unique journey when they set foot on Fort Bragg and no two cadets will share the exact same exper ience.

Presently, nearly every branch has at least one cadet assigned for duty. So, while some cadets are learning the tools of the logistical trade, others are jumping alongside fellow Soldiers in airborne opera­tions.

I decided to spend my short time on Fort Bragg with the 261st Multifunc­tional Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Brigade to observe the behind-the­scenes functions of one of the Army’s most vital professions.

Fortunately for me, I did not have to wait long to witness the fast­paced training of medical services. The very first rays of sunlight had barely touched Fort Bragg on my second morning here and the 36th Area Sup­port Medical Company was already in full gear. As a part of their upcoming defense chemical, biologi­cal, radiological, nuclear and enhanced conventional weapons response force

mission, they were required to execute a mass casualty decontamination exercise.

Although the training only lasted a couple hours, there was no room for failure and the company worked for days to prepare.

Every Soldier had a look of tenacious determina­tion as they waited in their vehicles at the motor pool.

They had already staged the convoy the night before, checked and rechecked their gear,

and packed the necessary equipment.

Despite the countless variables to consider, they even took the time to issue me my own set of gear to fully integrate me into the exercise. Every piece

of the puzzle was coming together, now it was time to perform.

As soon as the convoy reached the mock contami­nation site, they set up the necessary decontamina­tion equipment within 90 minutes, despite the pan­demonium caused by the multitude of “casualties.”

In conjunction with the 101st Chemical Company, the 36th ASMC processed and cared for over 100 casualties. Like clockwork, the medics assessed each victim and provided the proper medical care.

However, in addition to treating the casualties, the medics took care to look after themselves.

It was a sweltering day,

and the sun beat down relentlessly on the Soldiers and casualties alike and the risk for heat injuries was high. Some Soldiers reported losing up to five pounds in the mere forty­five minute period while wearing the protective gear (gas mask and full body suit).

But the medics main­tained constant vigilance and there were no heat related casualties during the exercise.

All in all, the rigorous preparation paid off so when 36th ASMC hit the ground running, they achieved excellence and passed the stringent grad­ing standards with flying colors.