Fort Polk, LA –
FORT POLK, La. — The Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Pathology Department hosted Connecticut National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Andrew Meeker for two weeks of hands on training during his unit’s rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk this month. Meeker’s unit, the 142nd Medical Company (Area Support), is at Fort Polk to manage the JRTC Aide Station Rear and provide medical care for the Arkansas National Guard.
Meeker enlisted in the guard in 2016 as a combat medic but was given the opportunity to retrain as a 68K, laboratory technician, in 2020. Meeker said as a National Guard member it’s not unusual for Soldiers to have multiple military occupational specialties based on the needs of the unit, the state and Army.
Meeker aspires to be a laboratory technician in his civilian career. He hopes the additional training received at BJACH will help him prepare for the American Society of Certified Pathologists exam.
“I joined the Army for the educational opportunities and to serve my country,” he said. “I initially enlisted as a combat medic because I was an emergency medical technician and I’ve always liked first aide, medicine and patient care. That passion turned into an interest in supporting diagnostic care. I wanted to do more on the investigative side by supporting a diagnosis from a physician and learning more about the molecular level of things.”
Meeker arrived at Fort Sam Houston in January of 2020 for his 52 week 68K training where he also completed the clinical practicum portion at Brooke Army Medical Center.
“Learning in a laboratory in the midst of a global pandemic was incredibly valuable to me,” he said. “Being a trainee at BAMC I started in the microbiology section and one of the first things I learned was the polymerase chain reaction COVID test on the BioFire and other machines. During my two weeks at BJACH I’ve helped process several dozen tests.”
Meeker said his commander, Maj. Amanda Griffiths, and the JRTC and Fort Polk Command Surgeon liaison officer, Maj. Carmen Salcedo, coordinated this additional training at the BJACH lab.
Salcedo said when the commander of the 142nd MCAS asked if Meeker could get some extra training in the lab, she was happy to help.
“The JASR team for this rotation contacted me about Staff Sgt. Meeker and asked if he could work in the lab,” she said. “The BJACH chief of pathology was more than accommodating and Staff Sgt. Heather Adkins, our 68K student coordinator, made sure he was able to work on all of his basic competencies.”
Salcedo said the 142 MCAS is a roll two small clinic and has a full complement of medical personnel. She said getting Meeker in the lab for two weeks was a unique situation but she is always willing to support National Guard and reserve Soldiers who need to get their two week training in each summer if she can.
Meeker said the team at BJACH helped him improve his confidence and his competencies.
“The staff in the BJACH lab has been very welcoming,” he said. “I really like hematology so being able to see the ins and outs of a variety of tests has been interesting. Getting hands on in all of the different departments and an operational overview has been a rewarding experience.”
Melissa Hagen, BJACH blood bank supervisor, said having Meeker was mutually beneficial for the lab because they were able to see how someone else does things similarly or differently than the team at BJACH.
“Staff Sgt. Meeker has done a great job while he’s been with us,” she said. “He is very motivated and eager to learn. We will miss having him around.”