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Teen medic thrives on aiding others

By Army Sgt. James Waltz
Pennsylvania National Guard

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, (7/24/09) -- Pennsylvania Army National Guard Spc. Amanda Cleveland is a self-described simple girl who is "not into drama." But it's tough for an Army medic to avoid dramatic situations, especially during a deployment to Iraq.

Cleveland's comrades say it is her ability to consistently help people -- not the drama -- that drives the Williamsport, Pa., native to excel at her job.

Cleveland graduated from high school in 2007 at 17 and immediately took on basic combat training and combat medical school.

"I really wanted to go into the medical field and wasn't sure how I was going to do it," she said. "A recruiter was able to get me into the health care field and give me a $20,000 bonus on top of it."

Cleveland was 18 when her six months of rigorous medical training began. She admits being a bit nervous. "It was the longest time I had ever been away from my family," she said. "I don't know if I could have graduated if it had not been for a few older friends I had made who shared their previous experiences with me."

While at training, she learned the ins-and-outs of emergency medicine and basic medical skills. She recalled one exercise, which she called "blood lanes."

"We went through these blood lanes where we had to treat mock casualties in a stressful environment," she explained. "It was fast-paced training, and we had to deal with them screaming, among other things."
Cleveland went through similar training at the regional medical training site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., in preparation for her nine-month deployment here, where she is serving with Task Force Keystone. Leading up to the three-month, pre-deployment mobilization, she was one of several medics tasked with training 28th Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers in basic combat medical skills. The training allows each soldier to act as a bridge between an emergency and the arrival of a medic -- often the most critical time in ensuring a patient's survival.

Her supervisor, Army Sgt. 1st Class Collin Bowser of Indiana, Pa., said Cleveland is extremely proficient at medical training.

"She has done an excellent job teaching several hundred soldiers the basics of first aid," he said. "And these are mostly soldiers who are novices at this stuff and have minimal medical experience."

Cleveland is humble about her teaching ability, but is quick to acknowledge the importance of it. "I really enjoy teaching, but it's not always easy keeping a student's attention because I'm not a dominating person," she said. "I just keep reminding myself that what I am teaching these soldiers will not only affect them, but also the people they may have to save. I may be helping my students save a life."

Cleveland is the primary instructor of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade's first aid refresher course here, which is taught monthly to a rotation of soldiers. When she is not training, she is receiving clinical experience in her unit's medical clinic. She takes vital signs, screens patients, performs asthma treatments and stitches sutures.

During her 12-hour shifts, she uses downtime to write home. Many soldiers here use e-mail, but Cleveland prefers to put pen to paper.

"I like to physically write letters for two reasons. First, some of my family members are technologically impaired," she joked. "But really it just feels more personal. It feels good to have that letter in your hand, knowing there was more time and energy put into it."

Military Medical Professionals are awesome. They receive the best training in the world. They understand how to be cool under extreme pressure. There are many outstanding opportunities for healthcare professionals trained by the military. In fact, Amanda should be eligible after she serves 36 months for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. You can see these benefits including housing expenses in our Education section on MiltiaryConnection.com. We would venture to bet that Amanda with her gifts will decide to stay in healthcare. It would not surprise us to see her pursue a career as a Physician, Physician Assistant, RN, Nurse Practitioner or something similar. There are so many opportunities for Military Healthcare Professionals when they finish their commitment in the Armed Forces. They can find top jobs in our Virtual Job Fair and our Job Board. When the next tour is back home, it's on MilitaryConnection.com.