Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Giles
FORT HOOD, Texas - As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Laura Wills felt the way many Texans felt: She wanted to help.
"I knew the Guard was being deployed," Wills said. "On a personal level, I didn't know what I could do to help with any of it."
Then, a colleague's request turned out to be an opportunity for her to support the Texas Army National Guard's readiness to respond to state emergencies and federal mobilizations.
The colleague was Judith Chedville, a clinical nursing specialist at Austin Regional Clinic, where Wills works as Chief Operations Officer. The request was whether their company could help her get certified as a basic lifesaver instructor.
Chedville, who also works as a captain and medical provider in the Texas Guard's 36th Infantry Division, was among the 12,000 Guard members Governor Abbott called up in response to the hurricane. As she waited to receive mission details, she found herself thinking forward about the challenge of recertifying her unit's combat medics. This is a crucial task for Army medics--also known as “68 Whiskeys” as 68W is the designation of their military occupational specialty --because if their CPR certification expires, they become temporarily unqualified to function in their lifesaving roles.
"If they lose their CPR certification, they completely lose their ability to be a 68 Whiskey," Chedville said. "How can we make sure we're getting their training taken care of?"
Chedville knew she could be part of the solution. All she needed to take on the task of recertifying her medics in CPR was to get certified as an instructor. So she submitted a request to her company.
This request was the opportunity to help that Wills had been looking for.
"When this came up, I felt like, I can figure this out," Wills said. "I contacted our staff development folks in our company who had the contacts for CPR training, and it honestly was not that hard. The company paid for it, and she was willing to do the work."
The company not only paid for it, but also managed her schedule so that she could the take necessary time away from seeing patients to complete the course.
Chedville explained that it's unusual for her company to pay for providers such has herself to receive basic lifesaver instructor training; more often they encourage ancillary staff to gain such accreditation. But Wills said she saw this as a way to support the troops, who during the Harvey relief efforts, proved they do good things with their training.
"Being in the medical field, I know how important basic CPR is, and even more so with people in the military service," Wills said. "You're out sometimes in remote areas and you have to be ready to care for the people around you."
Chedville thanked Wills for her support by nominating her for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program's Patriot Award. According to the program's website, the award recognizes "efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed."
Chedville's nomination enabled her chain of command to recognize Wills' support. First, her unit, the medical company of the 949th Brigade Support Battalion, invited Wills to witness a day in the life of a military medical provider. On June 9, 2018, Wills headed to Fort Hood, where the 949th and several other elements of the 36th Infantry Division were conducting their annual training. She observed field medical operations and weapons training up close before the division commander, Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, presented the award and spoke to her about the National Guard and reserve forces.
"You absolutely represent a critical component of the National Guard relationship between our families, our employers and the Soldiers themselves," Henry said to Wills. "You are instrumental and we couldn’t do what we do out here without the support of people like you."
Henry also lauded the specific contribution she made, emphasizing that a training gift to an Army medic is a contribution made to all Soldiers.
"We also couldn’t do what we do without our medics, who are critical to the mission of the 36th Infantry Division. They know no danger and go wherever there is a fallen Soldier to render aid on the spot. I know that I’m in good hands with our medics and you have been instrumental in their training and certification. Thank you very much for what you do and will continue to do."
Thus far, Chedville's new credential enabled her to recertify six combat medics in CPR. Wills said she intends to continue supporting her in strengthening her ability to meet this need in the Guard.
"I really look forward to seeing more of her training," Wills said and turned to Chedville. "Now we need to get you to the next level so you can train others to be trainers as well."