By Ileen Kennedy
Utah National Guard
As the spike in the omicron variant of COVID-19 cases affect Southern Utah, the Utah National Guard COVID-19 Joint Task Force deployed 17 Soldiers to assist at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins, Utah, and St. George Regional Hospital, Feb. 9, 2022.
“We are a state asset and so we operate wherever we are needed in the state. We are here to help out in whatever way possible,” said Pfc. Samuel Rettie, a Soldier assigned to the 222nd Field Artillery, and a St. George resident. “Being deployed to St. George isn’t anything out of the ordinary, it’s just us here doing what we are here to do and helping out.”
Nine of the Soldiers attended a two-day nurse aide training taught by Avalon Health Care, that oversees the Southern Utah Veterans Home.
“I’m honestly super honored to be here and be on these orders,” said Rettie. “All over you hear lots of comments or complaints or statements about the worker shortages and it’s probably the most prominent impact we’ve seen within our community. It’s an honor to fill these shortages and to be here to help out in whatever way possible.”
Day two of nurse aide training consists of skills for hands-on training with equipment and mannequins to simulate the real-world health care environment.
“Today we are learning all the practical skills that we went over in the textbook definition,” said Pfc. Zakariah Wahlen, a Cedar City resident serving in the 222nd Field Artillery. “We will be (learning) how to move people, how to address people, just barely we learned how to take blood pressure, how to put on personal protective equipment and how to wash our hands.”
Rettie added, “I feel confident in where I need to go to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the hands-on experience. I’m looking forward to getting as much knowledge out of this course as possible.”
Six of those completing the training will assist at the Southern Utah Veterans Home for the following two weeks.
“We are just helping out wherever we can, helping the residents with their day-to-day lives and helping the medical staff be more focused on the patients by taking care of whatever else they need,” said Rettie.
Several of the Soldiers serving in Southern Utah also live in the area where they will be working.
“It’s great to be serving in my local area and seeing the impact with us here. It's super to have this opportunity,” said Rettie.
Some of the Soldiers have been thinking of working in the medical field and feel this is valuable training that will help them decide what career path to pursue.
“I think the medical field is a very interesting field and I’ve looked into it a little bit, I’m just not sure where I want to go to school for it yet,” said Wahlen,. “I was very honored that they were giving opportunities to come help, I’m always actively looking to go to school and get more education through the Guard.”
The Nurse’s Aide Training is vastly different from the military skill set of these Soldiers, but it is training they can continue to grow from.
“There are lots of things I didn’t know. There are lots of details that people can just miss and I’m learning a lot and I can’t wait to store that knowledge and use it to my best capabilities,” said Pfc. David Bravo, from Hurricane, a Soldier assigned to the 222nd Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, at the Cedar City Armory.
Working at the veterans home and assisting those that have also served their country is an honor and a way for these younger Soldiers to say, “thank you for your service.”
“I feel very honored to help, especially to help those that served before, just feel very honored to help them and be able to give back to them,” said Wahlen.
“It’s a good feeling because I know that they have had sacrifices themselves and so to be here and be able to help them and be able to apply my knowledge to take care of them, it is an honor, it is something that I hope that they enjoy and that they appreciate because we appreciate them,” said Bravo.
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