Biology students dissect frogs, cats at JBB

Story and photo by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Service members at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, recently traded their rifles for scalpels.

Distance learning students attending the University of Maryland University College at the Blackjack Education Center at JBB dissected frogs for their biology class April 22, and cats April 24.

First Lt. John Saindon, an environmental officer with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a San Antonio native, has taught science at UMUC since October of 2009.

"The university had a need for teachers, so I thought I would go ahead and apply," he said. "I went through the process, and they said I was qualified to teach certain classes."

Saindon said the experience and opportunity to give to service members offered the greatest incentives.

"I have a skill and I want to share it with other folks," he said. "The main thing I want the students to get out of this is to show how animals have evolved."

After the deployment, Saindon said he hopes to pursue a job in higher education or administration, using the experience he gained in Iraq. He said he wants to take the enjoyment and fulfillment from his job here back to the states with him.

Saindon said students are frightened of the sciences, especially because so many have not taken science classes in years.

"I use the Army approach of crawl, walk, run," he said. "I get everyone on the same baseline and then take it from there."

Saindon said he tries to expose students to the animals they will dissect early on, so they can gradually step up to dissecting bigger animals.

"We start with worms, then work our way up to frogs … all the way up to cats," he said.

Sgt. Cannon Mangrum, a motor sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th SC(E) and a Corsicana, Texas, native, said the class was a great experience for him.

"I've been taking classes here for 10 months," he said. "There is a great opportunity here, so I might as well take advantage of it."

Although it is not one of his favorite pastimes, Mangrum said dissecting animals is part of the class and he will do what he must.

"I ate before I came here today and I thought that might not have been a good idea," he said. "It is not as bad as I thought."

For the most part, everyone seems to enjoy the class and attendance is high, Saindon said.

He said juggling his everyday mission while teaching is challenging and takes a lot of commitment, but it is rewarding.

"We're doing something with our free time and getting an education at the same time. It's a good experience for all of us," said Saindon.


news photo
First Lt. John Saindon, an environmental officer with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a San Antonio native, instructs students how to properly dissect a frog in a biology class at the Blackjack Education Center April 22 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.