FORT POLK, La., Feb. 7, 2018 —
Army Sgt. Randy Kieso, a combat medic with 3rd Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, had not had the opportunity to deploy since enlisting in 2010. When he heard his new unit would be conducting missions in Afghanistan in the spring of 2018, he was ready for the opportunity.
Kieso said he was certain he wanted to serve in the military since he was 6 years old.
“It’s essentially been a lifelong thing I’ve wanted to do; this has always been what I wanted to do,” he said.
When he first entered a recruiter’s office he explored the idea of serving as an infantryman, but decided he would serve as a combat medic instead.
Combat medics are tasked with providing emergency medical treatment on the battlefield, providing basic primary care and health protection and evacuation, according to the Army’s recruiting website.
“I like helping people — being the one that people look to for assistance,” Kieso said.
He said he looked up to his uncle, Stuart Fabian, who served as a medic during his time as a Navy corpsman. His uncle shared his knowledge and experiences, which motivated Kieso to become a medic in the Army.
Train, Advise, Assist
The Army announced the first deployment of the 1st SFAB in spring of 2018. Stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, the 1st SFAB has been tasked with training, advising and assisting Afghan forces. SFABS are specialized units whose core mission is to conduct advise-and-assist operations with allied and partner nations.
Kieso said he never deployed with his previous units due to unfortunate timing — he would arrive when the units were between rotations. He said he joined the 1st SFAB looking for “something new.”
“I’ve never gotten a chance to deploy and this was a for-sure thing, so that was a motivator to join,” he said.
When he began researching the 1st SFAB, Kieso said he was looking for a broadening assignment and could only find small bits of information, which he found intriguing.
Since joining the unit, he said he has enjoyed training alongside different components of the Army — from field artillery to intelligence soldiers.
“It’s nice being able to have people with all sorts of different MOSs, all sorts of experiences right next to each other,” he said. “Drawing from that has been an awesome experience. When I leave, I’ll have a better understanding of how other systems in the Army work, as well. If I understand how other jobs in the Army work, it can help me hone in on what exactly it is that I need to do and what I bring to the fight as a medic.”
Not a Standard Mission
Though this will be his first deployment, Kieso said he feels confident in his team, especially following the events and training they went through during the month-long Joint Readiness Training Exercise here.
“JRTC has definitely brought our team into being a team,” he said.
Kieso said he has found value in teaching other people to be able to perform combat medic tasks — specifically teaching the simulated Afghan National Army during the rotation — and working to improve their combat effectiveness.
“I’ve loved it; it’s been awesome,” he said. “It is not your standard [duties].”
Staff Sgt. Cody Standridge, a section leader with 1st SFAB, said everybody in the team has multiple hats to wear — between staff functions in the U.S. force and their foreign partner force, the 1st SFAB operates the way a battalion staff would while at a tactical level — each soldier has their job to perform.
During his time with the 1st SFAB at JRTC, Standridge said Kieso has worn several hats as he’s performed tasks outside his normal job to help his team.
“He steps outside of his role here at the 1st SFAB,” he said. “Personnel functions [are] not something that a [medic] typically does. On our team, though, it’s been critical to have him have that staff power, along with [running] the entire medical training portion for both our partner courses and the team.”
For their upcoming deployment, Kieso said his team will work fairly autonomously, so cohesion and camaraderie within the unit is conducive to the mission.
“Our team, if we’re not doing some big training exercise, we’re always doing some internal training to make us better — building teamwork; building individual team tactics, techniques, and procedures internal to us,” he said. “That has brought us a lot closer.”