Medical Professionals Combine Civilian Skills and Military Training Print
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Sgt. 1st Class Mike Chrisman, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Monday, 23 July 2012 12:52

CAMP RIPLEY, MINN. (07/22/2012)(readMedia)-- From plumbers and electricians to dentists and doctors, National Guard Soldiers bring unique skills to the battlefield.

The Illinois Army National Guard has approximately 10,000 Soldiers. Many of those Soldiers are blue collar workers who are trying to make a better life for their family. Others hold white collar jobs and have various reasons why they serve their country.

"I love the feeling I get when I put on the uniform," said Sgt. Lyndsey Bratcher of Bloomington with Company C (Co. C), 634th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) in Springfield. "The military has helped me advance my medical skills while serving my country."

Bratcher is a registered nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington and a medic in the Illinois Army National Guard.

"The skills I have learned have helped me be more proficient at my job," Bratcher said. "The military focuses more on trauma and it's a different mindset. You have to react to situations differently."

Bratcher said the military has helped make her a better civilian nurse.

"I have learned to keep the worst case scenario in mind," Bratcher said. "Something that looks minor could be major and it's helped me make better decisions."

According to the Illinois Army National Guard personnel branch, there is only one Soldier in the Illinois Army National Guard who is a civilian doctor. Capt. Michael Thomas of Freeport with Co. C, 634th BSB is trying to double that number. Thomas is a surgical resident at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield and is finishing up his residency. Thomas said he couldn't do his Army skills as well without his civilian training.

"They go hand-in-hand," Thomas said. "My Army leadership training has helped teach me to stay calm and organize things; civilian training has taught me that medicine crosses all barriers."

Thomas is a field surgeon with the Illinois Army National Guard. Once he completes his residency, he will become a general oral surgeon in the National Guard.

Co. C, 634th BSB is one of 30 companies in the Illinois Army National Guard with the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participating in a three-week training exercise at Camp Ripley, Minn., in July. Approximately 3,400 Soldiers are part of the exercise and medical professionals are essential to ensuring the training is a success.

Capt. Spencer Shoff of Godfrey, with Co. C, 634th BSB is the only military dentist participating in the exercise. Shoff said it's imperative to have the proper support personnel for the Soldiers training in the field.

"Like all healthcare professions we are here to help people," Shoff said. "If we can contribute to them being safe and able to train every day it feels good."

Shoff is in the last phase of his dental residency and then he can start his full-time practice concentrating on periodontal treatment. He said having military experience is a great asset as he looks toward his future.

"It's a positive thing," Shoff said. "It shows I can commit to something and stick to it. My military experiences make me a more well-rounded person with more to offer."

Shoff enlisted in the Guard 13 years ago before he envisioned himself as a military or civilian dentist. He said he plans to continue his military career because he is contributing to his country.

"I'm doing my part and I feel good," Shoff said. "It's something that I think is important and there are a lot of experiences I would be missing out on if I wasn't in (the Guard). Although I come here to do dental work, dentistry is the same whether it's in the civilian world or military. What keeps me coming back are the Army skills and Soldier training."

According to statistics from the Illinois Army National Guard's personnel branch, there are 21 civilian nurses, two dentists and one doctor serving in the Illinois Army National Guard.

"My military experience has affected my life in a positive way and helped me fulfill my civilian desires," Thomas said. "It's about training people and saving lives. That's why we do it."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/attachments.readmedia.com/files/42274/original/120720-Z-PM981-001.jpg?1342962289

Photo by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment / Sgt. Lyndsey Bratcher of Bloomington (left), Capt. Michael Thomas of Freeport (center) and Spc. Aaron Rice of Charleston (right), all with Company C, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Springfield work on a patient during a field training exercise July 20 at Camp Ripley, Minn. Bratcher is a civilian nurse. Thomas is a surgical resident at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.