War on Terrorism

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Face of Defense: Combat Medic Places Mission First

By Pfc. Samantha Schutz, USA
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 2, 2008 - Today's
Army is an interdependent network of soldiers who are as unique as the jobs they do, with more than 150 military occupational specialties available to choose from. When a unit deploys to a combat zone, the soldiers within it depend on each other more than ever, along with their occupational knowledge, to keep operations running smoothly. Army Staff Sgt. Craig Sotebeer, a native of Port Angeles, Wash., and an emergency care medic with Medical Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, said he has numerous duties both in the United States and while deployed, and that he takes all of them seriously.

While his primary job as a medic is taking care of sick and injured troops, Sotebeer also maintains the troop's gun trucks and ambulances, which are the primary evacuation vehicles used when a convoy encounters an emergency.

"I go out on convoys more than any other medic in the troop," Sotebeer said, noting he serves as the combat medic for a Stryker team mission two or three times per week. Each group of three or more vehicles must include a medical vehicle.

It is extremely important for combat medics to check the vehicles and equipment daily in preparation for each mission, Sotebeer said.

When Sotebeer isn't treating the troops, preparing for missions, or out on a convoy, he spends a lot of time helping to add on to the three-year-old building that serves as the 2nd Stryker Regiment's Troop Medical Clinic. In the four months since he arrived in Iraq, Sotebeer has added a deck, some doors and a television cabinet to the clinic, and has made some repairs. But construction is not one of his hobbies when he's not deployed, the soldier noted. Rather, he said, he enjoys just spending time with his family. Sotebeer has two sons and a daughter -- David, Luka and Ella -- with his wife of seven years, Dragana.

"Unfortunately, we're getting used to me being deployed," he said.

During the 11 years Sotebeer has been in the
Army, he has been deployed three times. But that doesn't mean he's out of touch with his family, he said. He receives mail almost daily, whether it's a care package or a home video via e-mail.

"Personally, I have to keep myself really busy," the medic said. "I don't take a lot of days off. That would just give me more time to think about missing my kids."

Officially, Sotebeer works a 12-hour shift seven days a week, but he said he often stays at the clinic up to two hours after his work shift ends. In addition to the long hours of scheduled duty,
combat medics are constantly on call in case of emergency. With the stress from long work hours in a combat environment, Sotebeer said, he has found it works best to "pace yourself."

"Don't try to be too 'gung-ho' right off the bat; pace your energy levels and your work schedule," Sotebeer said he tells newly-deployed soldiers. "Otherwise, you'll run out of steam."

Long Island, N.Y., native
Army Maj. John McMurray, commander of the Medical Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, described Sotebeer as "a true leader of soldiers."

"He not only has my full trust, but -- more importantly -- he has the full trust of his
soldiers," McMurray said. "He has trained them to be confident, technically proficient and capable medics."

The soldiers who work at the clinic under Sotebeer's guidance have a noticeable amount of respect for him and his knowledge, and he is always busy because he truly understands his duties, McMurray said.

As busy as Sotebeer keeps himself, he said, he is grateful this tour in Iraq has been stable so far. During his last deployment, five of Sotebeer's close friends were killed in action.

"This time it's been good. Last time was pretty chaotic," he added. He said he prayed for a safe tour and is getting it thus far.

Army Pfc. Samantha Schutz serves with 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs.)

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