Volunteers help hospital operate smoothly

Story by Spc. Michael V. Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Soldiers and Airmen at the Air Force Theater Hospital on Joint Base Balad, Iraq, take selfless service to a new level by volunteering their off-duty time and energy to help hospital staff.

This volunteer service allows service members who do not have medical backgrounds to receive medical training and assist the hospital staff wherever they are needed.

Those who sign up for the program go through an introductory course on patient care, safety and proper procedure, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Tricia Williams, the helicopter pad boss with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron.   They are familiarized with the different parts of the hospital and what each area does in terms of patient care, she said.

Senior Airman Joe Wallington, a medical technician with the 934th Aero-Medical Staging Squadron, said the volunteers ease stress on hospital employees.

“Our main issue is man power,” said Wallington. “We run low on man power and it gets stressful. (The volunteers) take the rush out things and let us focus more on our patients.”

A limited number of staff is on duty each night, but volunteers add able bodies to assist with moving patients more quickly and getting them proper medical attention, said Williams.

“When we have multiple patients, we rely on our volunteers,” said Williams. “Normally, we’ll have anywhere from eight to 12 volunteers a night, and they work the same shifts we do.”

Every night, Soldiers and Airmen come to the hospital to help, said Tech. Sgt. Brandise Caszatt, the night shift Medical Command Center noncommissioned officer with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group.  Their work adds to the comfort of the patients, he said.

Spc. Ezele Green, a truck driver with the 547th Transportation Company and a volunteer, said the work makes a difference for her, as well as the patients.

“Even though my daily job is important, I feel this is really making a difference in my life,” said Green. “I came in sick one day and I was impressed by a group of people—I later found out they were volunteers—handling an emergency situation with a patient coming off a helo. I wanted to be part of that, helping wounded warriors.”

Without the volunteers, the hospital would not function as smoothly, Caszatt said.

“The volunteers are definitely an integral part to the way the hospital functions,” he said. “I don’t know what we would do without them.”