Jen Snook and Cody Lynn Gomez are two of the most normal young ladies you’ll ever meet. They go to nursing school, hang out with their friends, and work a part-time job.
Oh, and they’re Search and Extraction Medics in the Air Guard Homeland Response Force, trained to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive attacks or extreme natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.
SSgt Cody Lynn Gomez of the Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing in Ohio, gives us a sneak peak at the Spartan side of her life:
“We do missions that help during a natural disaster or any kind of an explosion that happens, whether chemical, biochemical or natural. We can come and set up a fully functional area to help people. I am a Search and Extraction Medic, so I can go into a rubble pile, find a victim, package them up and do necessary emergency life-saving duties and then get them to decontamination to then get them more medical attention.”
What’s a typical mission like on the Homeland Response Force?
“Our latest mission was a tornado that leveled a whole college and we had 40+ people missing. Our mission was to go into the wreckage and find as many people as we could and pull them out and extract them. We had to jackhammer through…I found a couple of people – when I do that I yell, ‘I have one, two, I need a CAT or a SCAD,’ which is a device that we use to package them in. I found somebody whose hips were broken, so he could not help me whatsoever. I got him packaged up, then slid him through as much as I could to my guys who pulled him out.
“I also had somebody that had fallen from a 30-foot scaffold down into what looked like a tubing. We set up a 3-point harness system and I got lowered into this tubing to package up this victim, which was pretty interesting considering it was a 300 lbs victim and I’m 100 lbs soaking wet. It ended up working out really good – I got him out. We got him into the medical unit.”
What’s it like serving in the Air Guard and going to school at the same time?
“I use the Air National Guard scholarship along with my GI Bill, so I get 100% tuition paid for at a private nursing school. And I get checks every month depending on how many credit hours I take to help pay for supplies and books. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It helps take away some of the debt stress so I can concentrate on my schooling.”
Airman First Class Jen Snook of the Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Squadron in Oregon offers insight into her Air Guard mission:
“In a CERFP unit, we have our RNs that are triaging patients through each zone. We’re used a lot for HazMat situations, building collapses, and natural disaster recovery. We’re a Search and Rescue and Extraction Team as well, so we actually work hand in hand with the Army National Guard; they do a lot of our extracting and then we, of course, are their medics.
“We set up hot zones and cold zones and triage our patients on the way out. If they need to be decontaminated, we have decontamination zones as well and then they’re brought to the tents where we have our doctors waiting to be able to take them and then we’ll set them up to evacuate them out to the hospitals from there.”
CERFP? What is that?
“’CERFP’ stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package. The military is full of acronyms!”
What’s training like?
“My training for the CERFP unit started with 8 ½ weeks of basic training. From there I went to tech school that started with EMT licensing, which is a 5 ½ week course. In the civilian world it’s actually 6-9 months long. After that we go to a nursing program, which is another 8 weeks. That’s more of your hands-on studying…then we go through some real hands-on training with real patients in a hospital. I was able to be stationed in the ER, and that was an incredible experience…from there I was able to run my side of the ER with just a little bit of guidance and really get confident in my skills.”
How has serving in the Air Guard changed your civilian life?
“It doesn’t really affect my civilian world a whole lot. It’s just a couple weeks of the year and one weekend a month. As far as affecting my civilian life it really has done nothing but advance my career opportunities down the road.”