An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News & Gallery


Hospital Happenings

News | June 15, 2023

BJACH, Cajun Dustoff, support readiness, rotational units at JRTC

By Jean Graves, Medical Readiness Command, West

The Joint Readiness Training Center is known for forging the warrior spirit of Soldiers from around the world. The realistic training offered to brigade combat teams prepares units for whatever our nation calls them to do. Just as a forge is used to beat, shape and bend metal, the scenarios faced will shape America’s fighting force. During the forging process injuries occur and the medical support at Fort Johnson, Louisiana is prepared to respond.

Lt. Col. James Polk, commander, 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment, said his unit stays busy supporting the installation and rotational units.

“Our Charlie Company, Cajun Dustoff, stays very busy supporting service members, their Families and the local community. We take pride in proclaiming that we are one of, if not the busiest MEDEVAC unit in the Army within the continental United States,” he said “Our crews support 24 hour operations, seven days a week, most of the year. We provide the most expedient and dynamic means of moving an injured Soldier from the point of injury to higher levels of care at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, and across the local community.”

Polk said they work closely with BJACH during rotations and for routine patient transfers.

“We have an excellent relationship with BJACH,” he said. “This relationship provides the confidence Soldiers and leaders need to train tough and realistic scenarios while at JRTC. They know and trust that when an observer, coach, trainer calls in a 9-line, we are fully ready and capable of answering that call to ensure the safe transport and care of our nation’s warfighters, to get them the medical care they need.”

Polk said the most common injuries Cajun Dustoff responds too are heat related.

Maj. Cody McDonald, clinical nurse in charge of the BJACH emergency department, echoed Polk’s assessment of common injuries associated with rotational units with some additions.

“Many of the injuries or illnesses sustained range anywhere from rashes, bacterial and viral illnesses, abdominal pain, skin infections, and heat injuries; to traumatic orthopedic injuries, falls, crushes, or amputations. Soldiers perform a dangerous job and there are many hazards associated with operating in a training environment.”

McDonald said readiness is the priority for medical professionals in the Army.

“We are one of the few jobs in the military that perform the same function down range as we do in garrison,” he said. “Therefore, we always strive to provide a platform of readiness. We are always ready to treat minor injuries or manage major traumas. We do this through periodic certifications and mock drills that aid to maintain competency and ensure best practice within the department as well as to equip our staff with the necessary skills to treat all modalities of injuries or illness that come through the emergency room.”

The most recent and eighth rotation of fiscal year 2023 brought the New Jersey National Guard and guardsmen from across the country to the training area at Fort Johnson, and despite their best efforts, illness and injuries brought some these Soldiers to BJACH.

Spc. Julian and Pfc. Matthew Cid, twin brothers, are both fire support specialists with Detachment 1, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard, and found themselves at BJACH within a short time of each other June 7, 2023.

Danisha Jackson Mathes, medical support assistant in the BJACH radiology department, said meeting the Cid brothers was a unique situation that served as a catalyst to highlight the medical support BJACH and 1-5 Aviation Regiment provide to rotational units.

“During my eight years working at BJACH, we have supported countless rotations and taken care of many injured Soldiers,” she said. “But I never experienced having brothers here at the same time for a rotation.”

Mathes said Soldiers injured during rotations come to her department from the emergency room or the joint aide station rear (JASR).

“I try to be attentive to the names and faces of every patient to make sure they are taken care of in a timely manner. I checked in Spc. Cid for an X-Ray and 40 minutes later I thought I saw the same soldier pull another ticket,” she said. “At that point I got up and said Cid ‘why did you pull another ticket did I forget something?’ Pfc. Cid said, ‘no ma’am you haven’t checked me in yet.’ To which I responded, ‘stop playing I just took care of you, what happened why did they bring you back?’ He laughed and said, ‘oh, no that was my twin brother.’ Totally astounded I said, ‘Shut the front door!’ I just couldn’t believe that I had adult twin brothers here at BJACH.”

Dawn Carter, chief of radiology, said her department plays a vital role in diagnosing and assisting providers in determining the proper care for patients.

“We are a 24/7 ancillary clinic supporting our ER. We provide all diagnostic and CT services around the clock,” she said. “Having these services available for our rotational units, we are able to provide care quickly to ensure that the Soldiers are able to return to the field and continue their training quickly.”

Carter said her department sees an assortment of injuries from rotational units.

“We get anything from ankle, shoulder, and back injuries,” she said. “To traumas resulting from motor vehicle accidents.”

McDonald said no one should ever feel discouraged to go to the emergency department.

“All emergency situations that pertain to loss of life, limb, or eyesight should come directly to the ER,” he said. “But every unit that comes here for a rotation should be knowledgeable of their unit safety plan and risk matrix prior to conducting training. Heat is a factor here at Fort Johnson, it’s important for Soldiers to maintain hydration, good nutrition, and be mindful of environmental hazards when conducting training in our area. I would also encourage all Soldiers to utilize resources for mental health if needed. Even though it is a training environment, there are a lot of stressors performing your job and managing your personal life at home. The readiness of your unit depends on you and your team taking care of the individual first so they can function as an effective unit.”

Mathes said meeting the Cid brothers made her reach out to public affairs to share the story.

“It made me think of how there are brothers, sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters out there serving and training together,” she said.
“Fort Johnson is the Army’s premier combat training center. We support the National Guard, reserve units, foreign allies, and everyone else who comes to our installation for training. Just like the Cid twins share a familial bond, we as an installation share a bond with our medical partners like Cajun Dustoff and civilian hospitals across the region. This story was inspirational to me because the Cid brothers are out there preparing for combat, their devotion, dedication, and countless hours of training to serve our nation reminds me of how important our jobs are supporting them.”

Mathes said she considers it a blessing to be a member of the healthcare team at BJACH.

“We are all here to support every Soldier and their Family," she said. "It is also our job at BJACH to provide the best care to rotational units when they are here."

Spc. Cid said he was the first to make it to the radiology department with a suspected meniscus tear.

“Thankfully I wasn’t seriously injured, but as I was coming back from BJACH I saw Matt getting on a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter with suspected broken ribs heading to the hospital,” he said.

Pfc. Cid said he was injured during night operations.

“Due to the severity of my injuries, I was medically evacuated very quickly from point of injury to BJACH,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was injured at first, I was in the middle of a night op and my adrenalin was high. After the mission I started feeling the pain and was at the hospital within three hours.”

Spc. Cid said he received excellent care.

“I didn’t even expect to get an X-Ray, I just expected them to take a look at it in the emergency room,” he said. “But nope, they got me in to radiology and were considering an MRI if my knee were seriously injured.”

Pfc. Cid said he felt the care he received was above and beyond his expectations.

“There isn’t much you can do for broken ribs,” he said. “But BJACH was perfect, I got in quickly, got my X-rays done, and by the time I returned to the JASR they had my prescriptions ready, and my profile filled out.”

The twins are first generation Americans, and both added that the New Jersey Tuition Assistance Program was a key incentive for them.

Spc. Cid said he loves being in the Army.

“When I first joined, I just wanted the education benefits, but now I’m hoping to make a career of it, go active duty and eventually make command sergeant major,” he said. “In the meantime, I will continue my education, get my degree and make a plan to secure my future.”

Spc. and Pfc. Cid recuperated and rejoined their unit as nearly 5,000 Soldiers from 18 states completed their warrior tasks and departed the "Fullerton Box" training area. In the coming months, more than half of those Soldiers – including the Cids – continue preparations for an overseas deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. Theirs are the first “Warrior Spirits” to be forged at Fort Johnson.

Editors note: This story would not have been possible with out the coordinated efforts of the BJACH and New Jersey National Guard Public Affairs Teams. Thank you Maj. Amelia Thatcher and Sgt. 1st Class Armando Vasquez of the 42nd Regional Support Group, New Jersey National Guard for your assistance on this piece. One team, one fight!
Need to Update Your Information in DEERS? Click Here