National Guard Gives Combat Medic Priceless Training


SPC Leannah TeKrony, Health Care Specialist in the South Dakota Army National Guard, performs preventive maintenance checks and services on her medical bag during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Grafenwohr, Germany. (Photo by SPC Tyler O’Connell.)

GRAFENWOHR, Germany – Army National Guard Specialist (SPC) Leannah TeKrony is bringing her medical expertise to Operation Atlantic Resolve in Grafenwohr.

SPC TeKrony, from the small town of Estelline, S.D., is attached to the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion and serves as a 68W Health Care Specialist, commonly referred to as a combat medic.

She has been drawn to the medical field and the military ever since she was a child.

“It started when I was about 8 years old,” says TeKrony. “I had a huge respect for military personnel, and I had a doctor’s outfit with a stethoscope, so I would pretend to be a military medical person.”

But SPC TeKrony had her doubts about being able to join the military.

“I didn’t understand when I was younger that women could be in the military at the time,” she says. “As I got older, I realized there are things like the National Guard and how more military occupational specialties have opened up to women. There came a point when I realized, ‘I can do that.’”

After talking to a recruiter a few times, “I felt a deep calling and I knew it was what I wanted to do, especially if I could get into the medical field.”

Job training for a Health Care Specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training, including practice of inpatient care. Some of the skills you’ll learn are patient care techniques, emergency medical techniques, methods of sterilizing surgical equipment, and plaster-casting techniques.

During her initial training, SPC TeKrony received three top awards: Iron Medic, Leadership Award, and Distinguished Honor Grad, and was selected for a significant leadership role in training.

“It’s a pretty difficult course,” she says. “It was the first time in my life where I was really recognized for doing what I felt was right. I was crazy humbled and honored.”

SPC TeKrony then found herself attached to the 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion, where she went on back-to-back deployments, one with each battery.

“I never wanted to just sit in South Dakota,” she says. “I never want to sit in just one place, that’s why these deployments have been great. I like to go places and do and see different things.”

Throughout her time as a combat medic, SPC TeKrony has learned a lot of medical procedures that most civilian nurses are not allowed to do.

“I’ve gotten to do sutures, cyst removal, toenail removal, wart excisions on feet and fingers,” she says. “It’s pretty amazing because a lot of the time on the civilian side, it is only the providers that are allowed to do such things.”

SPC TeKrony has been taking college classes while deployed to further her medical career. Soldiers earn benefits to help pay for education and expenses while serving their country and their community.

“I’ve definitely been drawn to a lot of specialties in my life,” she says. “After being here, I would definitely like to work in an ER; however, there is a part of me that would like to go to a more dangerous place to be able to take care of these things that happen daily, whether that be in the Army or on the civilian side.”

SPC TeKrony highly recommends anybody interested in entering the medical field to join the Army National Guard as a Health Care Specialist.

“It would be a great steppingstone into the medical career,” she says. “Not only are you more exposed on the military side, but you also get the experience to carry into the civilian side.”

With more than 130 positions in career fields ranging from Administration to Intelligence to Cyber and Ground Forces, you can find your perfect fit with the Army National Guard. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more.

From an original article by SPC Tyler O’Connell, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in February 2020.

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Paramedic Takes His Skills to the Skies as an Army National Guard Flight Medic

SPC Mason Burkhart is a flight medic for the Nevada Army National Guard and a paramedic for a local emergency medical services provider.

SPC Mason Burkhart is a flight medic for the Nevada Army National Guard and a paramedic for a local emergency medical services provider.

From his days as a lifeguard in high school training alongside members of an ambulance company, Mason Burkhart knew he wanted to go into the medical field. And from an even younger age, he knew he wanted to join the Army.

So now at age 23, he’s doing both. In his civilian life, he’s a ground-based paramedic for Reno, Nev.’s Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority (REMSA). In the military, he’s Specialist (SPC) Burkhart, a 68W Healthcare Specialist who serves part-time as a flight medic for the Nevada Army National Guard.

That’s on top of his enrollment as a pre-med student at the University of Nevada, where he’s working on his bachelor’s degree in microbiology using the Guard’s State education benefits to pay for his tuition and textbooks.

From there, SPC Burkhart is keeping his options open as to what he might specialize in as a physician down the road, but trauma surgery is definitely among them.

In the meantime, his aviation unit, which includes some of his REMSA co-workers, is preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan next year where it will perform medevac missions to treat and transport critically ill and injured patients.

SPC Burkhart has been in the Guard for only 18 months, but he came into it with several years of medical experience under his belt. He became an EMT at age 18, “fell in love with it” and went on to become certified as a critical care paramedic, which ties in directly with his Guard work as a flight medic.

Both of his jobs complement each other, he says.

His Guard training as a combat medic is more heavily focused on treating traumatic injuries, which has improved his assessment and treatment skills for those patients, whereas his civilian career gives him exposure to many more patients – 40-50 per week – who are experiencing medical issues of all varieties.

“It’s a really unique line of work,” he says of his civilian job. “You have to be really adaptable. From one second to the next everything can change. No two days of work are the same, and I really like that.”

That same unpredictability goes for his Guard work, too, particularly for his unit, which operates from Black Hawk helicopters, and therefore requires SPC Burkhart to know the Black Hawk’s capabilities, such as how to use a hoist to attend to a patient on the ground.

“We can get activated for anything. We can go to hurricanes, we can fight fires, we can do search and rescue. You train for what your capabilities are, but you never know what you’re going to be getting into.”

SPC Burkhart says his unit embraces DUSTOFF (Dedicated Unhesitating Support to Our Fighting Forces), as more of a motto than just the radio call sign for a medevac helicopter.

“We’re always there in a time of need, and that’s one thing I just really love about the Guard. I love my job; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have the coolest job in the Army [National Guard].”

Besides being there to help his fellow Soldiers when they need him, SPC Burkhart has also answered a call to serve some local veterans. Last summer he volunteered to serve as a medic for Honor Flight Nevada, which takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials and museums that are dedicated to their military service.

“It’s really awesome to see [the veterans] reminisce. They make friends with you, they make friends with each other, and it’s just a good time for everyone.”

Honor FIight is an experience he’d like to share with his father some day, a former Marine turned Army National Guard Soldier and Gulf War veteran.

“He really loves the fact that I’m in the Army. It gives him someone to talk to about all the little nuances that only people who have served can understand.”

SPC Burkhart has zero regrets about his decision to serve.

“It’s a big commitment to sign your name, take that oath and dedicate yourself to something larger, but it’s definitely worth it.”

So if you’re interested in dedicating yourself to serving others, the Army National Guard has a unique dual mission of serving the State and the Nation.

The Guard offers Soldiers training in one of more than 130 careers in fields like armor and field artillery, administration, transportation, and engineering. And because military service is a part-time commitment, many Soldiers also hold civilian jobs or attend college or a trade school using the Guard’s education benefits.

Contact your local recruiter to learn more.

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How I Got My College Degree for Free

The Army National Guard Paid for It

Between the Army National Guard’s Federal tuition assistance, State tuition assistance, and GI Bill, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Ryan West earned his bachelor’s degree for free.

He estimates that between the special military rates offered by the schools he attended and the Guard’s education benefits, he has saved $30,000 to $40,000 in tuition and fees.

Without the Guard picking up the tab, SFC West’s other options to pay for school were using his GI Bill from his previous active duty service in the Army or student loans.

SFC Ryan West, a Medical Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard.

SFC Ryan West, a Medical Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard.

“I was raised in a single-parent home, there just wasn’t money for college,” he explains.

SFC West, a Medical Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard, has had a few stops and starts on his way to earning that degree. He had started college before joining the Army in 1998, but, “It didn’t work out for me. The money wasn’t there, plus I wasn’t that disciplined.”

So, he joined the military, something he had wanted to do since he was a child.

“I’m from a small town, Hopkins, South Carolina, so I wanted to get out and see the world, see new places, and meet new people,” says SFC West. “And, of course, defend my country. There’s nothing like it. You get a great reward from serving.”

After leaving active duty in 2002, SFC West wanted to continue his service, so he joined the Guard because he liked the idea of serving part-time, especially so he could go back to school.

But then he deployed to Iraq, which marked a complete turnaround in how he looked at his career.

“Prior to that, I was just a traditional Guardsman, just going through the motions, coming to drill. I didn’t really have aspirations of going higher in the ranks or being better than what I was.”

Experiencing what he did while deployed in Iraq as a 68W Healthcare Specialist (combat medic) – the inhumanity of war and even meeting new people from different places, made him realize he could reach higher.

It was after coming home that SFC West realized all of the Guard benefits he could use to complete his degree.

“You get funds from three different sources, which is great,” SFC West says. “You don’t get that in the Reserves, and you don’t get that in the regular Army.”

The Guard offers Federal tuition assistance. Plus, each State or Territory offers State tuition assistance, but note that each State or Territory has its own rules and policies. Finally, the GI Bill can pick up the tab for books, fees, or really anything. This money is a monthly expense allowance paid directly to the student, not the school.

SFC West and his family at his college graduation.

Armed with all of these financial resources and a renewed sense of purpose, SFC West re-started his studies at Limestone College in South Carolina, but then decided to take a full-time job with the Guard. As 2014 came into view, he decided to go back to school “to finish this thing before I retire,” finally earning his bachelor’s in organizational leadership from the University of South Carolina.

And, he might not be done using up all those education benefits. He still has some of his post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to transfer to his children, and he can still use the Guard’s tuition assistance to earn a master’s degree he’s thinking about getting.

His advice for anyone joining the Guard is: “Let the Guard get the most out of you, and you get the most out of the Guard.”

And that means taking advantage of all the opportunities it offers, including making the most of the education benefits.

“That paycheck means nothing if you stay five or six years and you don’t have a degree – a free degree,” he says.

So if you’re looking for a way to pay for college, or even vocational school, the Guard offers those benefits and more, like training in careers ranging from medicine and engineering to field artillery and logistics. You can explore all of the Guard’s career fields on our job board.

And, for personalized advice, including specifics on your State’s education benefits because the information varies from State to State, contact your local recruiter.

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